by Nick Swartsell
24 days ago
Posted In: News
at 01:57 PM | Permalink
Proposed constitutional amendment would guarantee voting as a fundamental right
Civil rights leader and former presidential hopeful Rev. Jesse Jackson wants to drum up support for a proposed constitutional amendment guaranteeing all Americans the right to vote, and he came to Cincinnati yesterday on his quest to get it.Jackson appeared at yesterday's Cincinnati City Council meeting to make his case, highlighting the fact that voting rules are often left up to state and local authorities, creating a “separate and unequal” system. The constitution guarantees free speech and the right to bear arms, he said, but neglects to explicitly extend voting as a right to all citizens.“For too long, too few Americans could vote to call this country, legitimately, a democracy.” Jackson said, noting that before the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which sought to abolish Jim Crow laws suppressing the black vote, “America survived apart.” He called the act of voting “perhaps the most fundamental landmark in this democracy.” Yesterday was the 49th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.Despite the progress made by the Voting Rights Act, a constitutional amendment is still needed, Jackson said. He highlighted recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down some sections of the Voting Rights Act, as well as the byzantine system of state, county and local rules that govern voting. There are more than 13,000 local municipalities and voting jurisdictions in the United States.Despite the high hurdles in front of his idea, Jackson had little trouble getting some symbolic help from city council yesterday, which voted 7-0 to pass a motion expressing support for his efforts. Councilman Christopher Smitherman was not at the meeting and Councilwoman Amy Murray abstained from the vote.Council members had high praise for Jackson. “We appreciate your presence, we appreciate your leadership on so many issues of so much importance,” said Vice Mayor David Mann.“These kinds of movements always start in the grassroots and move toward the top,” said Councilman Wendell Young. “I’m glad that a good start is being made here in Cincinnati.” The Bill of Rights does not mention voting among the rights it enumerates.Recent battles over early voting in Ohio illustrate the lack of a national standard and the patchwork of rules from state to state when it comes to voting accessibility. Ohio Republicans have moved to restrict early voting times in the state, including evenings and Sundays leading up to elections, when many black voters go to the polls. Ohio’s General Assembly passed laws in February eliminating six early voting days and same-day voter registration. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, subsequently eliminated early voting the last two Sundays before elections and on weekday evenings during the days before elections.
The move has caused ire among voting rights activists and has led to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. The Justice Department last month signaled it would join the ACLU in that suit.Husted’s cuts to early voting the Sunday before elections were undone when a federal district court judge ruled that the state must reinstitute early voting during the final three days before an election. Despite that victory, the other cuts have yet to be restored and are the grounds for the ACLU suit.“We want to end the confusion around the right to vote as a fundamental right,” Jackson said of his proposal. He came to Cincinnati to make his case, he said, because the city has played an important role in social justice issues.“This place has a certain history, beyond just a museum, a certain living history in this quest for social justice,” Jackson said, referencing the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and highlighting important visits by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The city has seen more than its share of race-related turmoil as well, of course, including the police shooting of unarmed black men and the resulting civil unrest in 2001, the city's stubborn income inequality, which weighs most heavily on minority residents, and other issues. Still, the city has made progress, Young said. "It hasn't always been that way here, but one of the things that makes me so very proud to be a Cincinnatian is that at the end of the day, we get it right."Jackson’s proposed amendment faces a long road. Only 17 amendments have been passed since the initial 10 found in the Bill of Rights were ratified in 1791, the last of which, dealing with congressional pay raises, was passed in 1992. Two-thirds of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate must vote to pass an amendment; given the current state of Congress, that’s an exceedingly tall order. Then three-quarters of the nation’s state legislatures must approve the amendment. A constitutional convention convened by two-thirds of the state legislatures can also make amendments, though none of the 27 we have now have been passed this way.
0 Comments · Tuesday, July 22, 2014
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says
the Justice Department plans to join a lawsuit against the state of Ohio
seeking to restore early voting in the state.
by Nick Swartsell
47 days ago
Posted In: Voting
at 03:00 PM | Permalink
U.S Attorney General Eric Holder says DOJ will use its power to defend the right to vote
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder last week said the Justice Department plans to join a lawsuit against the state of Ohio seeking to restore early voting in the state. Holder revealed the DOJ’s intention to join the fight in Ohio over early voting during an interview about terrorism with ABC News in London July 11. That portion of the interview was unaired. Holder’s comments were revealed when the DOJ released transcripts to the press this week.The Ohio suit, originally brought by the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups, claims the Republican-led elimination of early voting hours is unconstitutional because it will disproportionately affect minorities. Ohio’s General Assembly, which is controlled by Republicans, passed laws in February eliminating six early voting days and same-day voter registration. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted subsequently eliminated early voting the last two Sundays before elections and on weekday evenings in the days before elections.Some of Husted’s cuts to early voting the Sunday before elections were undone by a federal district court judge, who ruled that the state must reinstitute early voting in the final three days before an election. Despite that victory, the other cuts have yet to be restored and are the grounds for the ACLU’s lawsuit.In the interview, Holder said voting is “the most basic of our rights” and vowed that he “will use every power that I have, every ability that I have as Attorney General to defend that right to vote.”Holder also said the DOJ will file in another voting rights case over Wisconsin’s voter ID law, which has seen a pitched battle in federal courts. Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald applauded Holder’s comments in a news release today. “I’m pleased that the U.S. Department of Justice will be joining the fight to protect voter rights in Ohio,” FitzGerald said in the release. “Under Governor Kasich, access to the polls has significantly decreased for hardworking Ohioans across the state.”
by Nick Swartsell
74 days ago
Posted In: News
at 09:06 AM | Permalink
Lytle Park changes, early voting hours and mummies
All right. It's time for the good stuff, the bad stuff and the ugly stuff in today's news. Fair warning — the ugly stuff involves a mummy.Big changes are coming to the Lytle Park area. Alterations to the area’s historic district designation are set to pass City Council today. Western and Southern Financial Group, which owns the whole dang area many of the buildings around the district, wants to expand its office space and will need the ability to tear down a parking garage and some other buildings in the historic district to do so. So it's asked the city's planning commission to change the district, which expires this year. The changes were folded into the renewal of the area's historic designation and have gone through the commission and City Council's Neighborhoods Committee and now just need final approval.The area became the city’s first historic district when it was designated such in 1964. The district as it is currently drawn prevents the changes Western and Southern would like to make, but the proposed redrawn boundaries would leave the buildings in question out of the district. There are a few historic buildings in the district whose designation would change due to the plan, including the University Club and the Sheakley Building. The owners of those buildings said they have big investments in the historic structures, however and would not be significantly changing or selling them.Meanwhile, Western and Southern is gearing up to convert the Anna Louise Inn into a luxury hotel. The Inn, which was run by nonprofit Cincinnati Union Bethel, served as a women’s shelter for over 100 years before being purchased by the company after a long legal battle. Because low-income women escaping abuse and exploitation just don’t look good in a neighborhood you’re trying to turn into a shimmering and artificial oasis of ludicrous wealth.• Funding disparities between two affordable housing projects in the city are raising questions about the ways the city allocates money for such projects. A 100-unit supportive living site in Avondale requested $500,000 in funds last year from the city, and its application has still not been processed despite council approving the project. Meanwhile, a vote later this month could send $1.8 million toward 40 units of affordable housing in Pendleton. Difficulties have popped up with the site chosen for the Avondale project, but some on council, including Yvette Simpson, are questioning why money is going to the more recent Pendleton proposal over the Avondale site. Advocates for housing in the city say the two projects aren't competing and that funding should be found for both.• The city of Cincinnati was awarded $1 million in federal transportation grants Tuesday. The city announced it will use the money for bike trails. Half will go to an expansion of a trail in Westwood, and the other half will go to fixing up part of the trail near Lunken Airport. The city will pitch in another $125,000 for both projects.• Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has set early voting hours for the state
but only after some arm-twisting by the Supreme Court. Originally,
Husted had moved to eliminate early voting the Sunday and Monday before
election day. He claimed the move was for more uniformity in voting
hours across the state. Voting rights advocates, however, claimed the
changes curtailed voting opportunities, especially for minority voters.The
Supreme Court agreed that, you know, generally giving people the chance
to vote is good and ordered Ohio to reinstate the days. Now the time frame is set. Voters will be able to cast ballots from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Monday through Friday in the month before the election and will be able
to vote from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday and 8 a.m.
to 2 p.m. the Monday before election day. This schedule starts in August.• In the category of “surreal, awful things that could only happen in an Ohio rustbelt city,” a boy exploring an abandoned house in Dayton found… a mummy. Apparently the man who once lived in the house hung himself in a closet, which preserved his body. He wasn’t discovered for five years, until the curiosity of youth led the boy to the house. Multiple levels of disturbing right there.• Finally, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today canceled the trademarks for the name of a certain Washington, D.C. based football team on the grounds that the name is “disparaging to Native Americans.” The office went on to say that the name is definitely an ethnic slur and should never have been able to be patented in the first place. In case you're wondering why it took until 2014 to figure that out (I sure was), the trademark was overturned once before, in 1992, but was reinstated by federal courts due to a technicality. The Trademark Office says that no such error exists in this case and that the ruling will likely stand. Finally.
Ohio Democrats launch statewide initiative to protect voting access from GOP-led limitations
6 Comments · Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Ohio is at the forefront of the fight as
activists work to defend long-held voting practices from Republican-led
efforts to limit citizens’ options for casting their ballots.
by German Lopez
Democrats and Republicans clash on moving elections offices to Mount Airy
The Hamilton County Board of Elections on Monday split
along party lines over whether the board should move its offices and
early voting from downtown, Cincinnati’s urban core, to Mount Airy, where only
one bus line runs.
The two Democrats on the board dispute the move. They claim the move would make voting less accessible to voters who rely on
public transportation to make it to the ballot box.
Republicans on the board argue the move would make voting
more accessible to suburban voters and provide free parking that’s
scarcely available at the current downtown offices. They call the move
“good government” because it would consolidate some county services at
Mount Airy, where county officials plan to build a crime lab as long as
the Board of Elections moves with the coroner’s office and provides the
critical mass necessary to financially justify renovations at a former
Republicans cautioned their proposed motion would keep
early voting downtown through the 2016 presidential elections. After that, the
board’s offices would move, along with early voting.
Ohio’s secretary of state — Republican Jon Husted — normally
breaks tie votes on county boards of elections. The secretary of state’s office claims Husted will remain undecided on the issue until he reviews documents from the Board of Elections explaining both sides of the tie vote. But spokesperson Matt McClellan says Husted would like to see the Board of Elections reach a compromise before he is forced to intervene.The board’s vote followed a contentious back-and-forth
between public speakers and board members regarding the looming
decision. Most speakers spoke against the move and labeled it “voter
suppression.” Some dissenters supported the move for its fiscal
Alex Triantafilou, a Republican on the Board of Elections,
accused Democrats of “playing politics” with the move. He claims
Democrats just want to keep early voting in a Democratic stronghold like
downtown.Democrats Tim Burke and Caleb Faux countered that, along the same lines, the Mount Airy facility would benefit Republicans by making early voting more accessible to Republican-leaning suburban voters and less accessible to Democrat-leaning urban voters.
State Rep. Alicia Reece, a local Democrat who spoke at the meeting, rebuked accusations of partisan politics and reiterated an argument she made to reporters on Thursday.
“The reality is the Board of Elections at its current
location has declared both Democrat and Republican winners of
elections,” Reece previously said. “I think the focus is to just make
sure that we have a facility that everyone can have access to, whether
you’re driving or whether you’re on the bus.”
Mayor John Cranley, a Democrat, on Thursday offered free
space at the Shillito’s building in an attempt to keep early voting
But Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, told CityBeat
the offer is not enough to satisfy the county’s occupancy needs at Mount Airy, even if the city
moves some police services, such as SWAT operations, to the Mount Airy
facility to help fill out the 500,000 square foot building.
“Without the Board of Elections coming with the crime lab,
that’s not enough occupancy,” Hartmann said. “There would be some good
potential co-location opportunities with the city (at the Mount Airy
facility), but not enough to take up 400,000 square feet.”
County officials expect the crime lab to take up 100,000
square feet at the Mount Airy facility, and the Board of Elections would
occupy another 100,000 square feet. So the county needs to fill 300,000
square feet to fully utilize the Mount Airy facility, even if the Board
of Elections moves.This story was updated with comments from the secretary of state’s office.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 12:25 PM | Permalink
Constitutional amendment could appear on November ballot
State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are mobilizing a campaign to get a "Voter Bill of Rights" on the Ohio ballot this November.If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would preserve the 35-day early voting period, expand early voting hours, allow voters to cast a provisional ballot anywhere in a given county, advance online voter registration and effectively prevent legislators from passing stricter voter ID laws in the future.But before it ends up on the ballot, supporters will need to gather 1,000 petition signatures to get the initiative in front of the attorney general and collect 385,247 total signatures by July 2 to file the petition to the secretary of state.The Democrat-backed amendment is in direct response to attempts by Republicans, including Secretary of State Jon Husted and Gov. John Kasich, to shorten Ohio's early voting period and otherwise restrict access to the ballot.A bill currently working through the Ohio legislature would trim the early voting period from 35 to 29 days and effectively end the "Golden Week" in which voters can register to vote
and file a ballot on the same day. It's expected Kasich and Republican legislators will approve the bill.Republicans say the limits are supposed to prevent voter fraud and establish uniform voting standards across the state. Otherwise, some counties might establish longer early voting hours than others.But some Republicans acknowledge that restrictions on early voting could suppress constituents that typically elect Democrats, obviously to Republicans' advantage."I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process
to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout
machine," wrote Doug Preisse, close adviser to Kasich, in a 2012 email to The Columbus Dispatch.The constitutional amendment could also help address concerns raised last year when the U.S. Supreme Court repealed parts of the Voting Rights Act that allowed the federal government to better regulate state-level restrictions on voting.In response to some of the concerns, Democratic candidates plan to hold a voting rights forum in Cincinnati on Martin Luther King Jr. Day next Monday. Attorney general candidate David Pepper, secretary of state candidate Nina Turner and state auditor candidate John Carney are scheduled to attend.The Voter's Bill of Rights:
by German Lopez
Troubled execution draws critics, activists push voters' rights, Preschool Promise needs help
A condemned Ohio killer took more than 20 minutes to die in an execution carried out yesterday with a combination of drugs never tried before in the United States. The execution was one of the longest since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999. Throughout the nearly 25 minutes that Dennis McGuire took to die, he reportedly gasped and loudly snorted as family members and reporters watched. McGuire's attorney called the execution "a failed, agonizing experiment" and added, "The people of the state of Ohio should be appalled at what was done here today in their names." The new execution method was adopted after the previous drug's supplies ran out because a manufacturer declared it off limits for state-sanctioned kills.In response to the troubled execution, the family plans to file a lawsuit. Ohioans to Stop Executions also called for a moratorium on the death penalty.State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are pushing a Voter Bill of Rights that could end up in front of Ohio voters in November. If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would preserve the 35-day early voting period, expand early voting hours, allow voters to cast a provisional ballot anywhere in the county and advance online voter registration. Many of those measures are controversial to Republicans, who have repeatedly tried to limit early voting in the past couple years. But to get the amendment on the ballot, activists will need to wade through the long, costly process of gathering roughly 385,000 eligible signatures by July 2.Commentary: "Republicans Continue Hindering Access to the Ballot."Cincinnati's campaign for universal preschool is looking for volunteers to help raise awareness and shape the final proposal. The big question is how tuition credits for local families, particularly low-income parents, would be funded under the proposal. Despite the remaining questions, voters could vote on the initiative in November. CityBeat covered the Preschool Promise in greater detail here.The National Weather Service called a Winter Weather Advisory
for most of the Cincinnati area until 4 p.m. today. Drivers should
expect reduced visibility and one or two inches of snow, mostly before
noon.As expected, Ohio officials appealed a ruling that forces the state to acknowledge same-sex marriages on death certificates.The University of Cincinnati is spending more than $500,000 this year on
lights, cameras and off-duty patrols, among other measures, to address continuing concerns about violent crimes around campus.
But some students and parents say the school should pursue more
aggressive efforts, such as selling anti-crime tools in the campus
bookstore.Greater Cincinnati Water Works reopened local intakes along the Ohio River after the W. Va. chemical spill passed yesterday.Cincinnati officials admit yesterday that a pile of old road salt should have been used before other supplies, but the city says it will use the remaining pile before purchasing more salt. Councilman Charlie Winburn raised questions about the salt after he discovered the $316,000 pile.Cincinnati ranked fifth for number of bedbug treatments in 2013.More than 50,000 employees will get job training through the second round of the Ohio Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency.Extreme heat forced authorities to suspend the Australian Open for more than four hours yesterday and caused one athlete to hallucinate images of Snoopy.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
4 Comments · Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Put it all together, and the trend is obvious: Republicans are trying their best to rig the elections.
by German Lopez
Only 11 streetcar workers to lose jobs, federal funds endangered, GOP reducing early voting
Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick yesterday said only 11 streetcar workers are expected to lose their jobs
following City Council’s pause of the $132.8 million project, far below
the original estimate of 200 city officials gave on Monday. The remaining workers will be moved by contractors to other jobs or
kept under ongoing utility work, which utility companies agreed to
continue despite no longer qualifying for reimbursements from the city,
according to Deatrick. He also said it’s “a wild guess” whether the
number of layoffs will grow in the future.
Cincinnati should expect to return up to $44.9 million in
federal grants funding nearly one-third of the streetcar project even
though the project is only on “pause” as local officials weigh the costs of cancellation and completion, according to transportation experts who
talked to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Without the federal grants, the project is effectively dead.
The two swing votes on council — David Mann and Kevin Flynn — say they
want to evaluate whether it would make financial sense to cancel the
project this far into construction. Deatrick previously estimated
the costs of cancellation could nearly reach the costs of completion after accounting for
$32.8 million in sunk costs through November, $30.6-$47.6 million in
close-out costs and $44.9 million in lost federal grants. But Mann and
Flynn voiced distrust over the projections and called for an independent
Democrats and voter advocates claim Republican legislators are slowly rebuilding “voter suppression” laws
that were the subject of referendum in 2012 before Republicans backed
down. Democrats called on Gov. John Kasich to veto the bills. Among
other measures, the bills would reduce the amount of in-person early voting days
and restrict elected officials’ ability to to mail out unsolicited
absentee ballot applications. Democrats claim the bills are meant to
suppress voters. Republicans argue the measures help
reduce “cheaters,” even though in-person voter fraud is very rare.
Chris Finney, a high-profile lawyer who is critical of local tax breaks for businesses, apologized for denying that he sought tax breaks for his law firm.
Finney sought the tax breaks shortly after criticizing Cincinnati for
granting a tax incentive package to convince Pure Romance to move from
Loveland, Ohio, to downtown Cincinnati. Finney is the top legal crusader
for the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a conservative group with a history of anti-gay causes.
Tea party group One Percent for Liberty nominated Mayor
John Cranley as a “Defender of Liberty for 2013” for his work against the
streetcar project and parking privatization plan. The group previously nominated various conservative politicians and activists from around the
region. The award will be presented at COAST’s Christmas party.
Hundreds of schools and businesses in the Cincinnati area today closed in response to the developing winter storm.
St. Elizabeth Healthcare and TriHealth, two of the areas’ largest health systems, yesterday announced they’re teaming up to reduce costs, improve the patient experience and generate better health outcomes.
Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday announced he will crack down on electronic raffle operations.
Nelson Mandela, a South African icon of peace, died yesterday.
Mandela was a peaceful leader of the anti-apartheid movement who went
on to become South Africa’s first black president. His consistent
devotion to peace inspired similar peaceful protests around the world. The New York Times put together a great interactive featuring several correspondents who witnessed Mandela first-hand here.
U.S. unemployment fell to 7 percent in November, the lowest rate in five years.
Popular Science explains how to get rid of animal testing.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez