COLUMBUS— State Representative Bride Rose Sweeney (D - Cleveland) announced the discovery of a major flaw in the Secretary of State’s Online Voter Registration system. News reports last week of Ohio college students facing obstacles led her to examine the site. Student addresses are being rejected and the website misleads students into believing they’ve registered to vote when they click “Submit Voter Registration” when, in fact, they often must submit a paper form.


Rep. Sweeney sent a letter to Secretary of State Frank LaRose today seeking immediate action and addressing other inaccuracies on the Secretary’s website that could mislead college students about their clear right to vote in their campus communities and how to do so.  


“There is one week left to register to vote in the November 3rd election and, with new problems being exposed, every Ohio college student should double-check their voter registration. Our country’s election systems are built without the needs of college students in mind. It is by design and it is shameful.


When Ohio passed the law to create online voter registration, Democrats warned that the bill, sponsored by then-Senator LaRose, would be a major problem for college students. People are being turned away because our online system is stricter than our paper voter registration system. That’s backwards.”


Online voter registration was first proposed and passed by House Democrats in 2009. It did not become law until 2017 with LaRose-sponsored SB 63. Democrats’ amendments to remove the requirement of two forms of ID were rejected amid Democratic warnings that Ohioans would have problems with the system.


 


See the letter below:


 


Dear Secretary LaRose,


With one week left before voter registration closes, Ohio’s college students need answers now. Two recent news reports have exposed problems that Ohio college students are having with your online voter registration website. All of the students at my alma mater, John Carroll University, are learning remotely and have questions about how to register and vote. Your website urgently needs to be updated to provide better, accurate information.


The news reports indicated that your system may not be accepting college addresses, like dorms. In my own attempts to use the system, I was alarmed to find that if I entered any information that does not match my driver’s license, I should have been directed to a paper registration form, but instead I was allowed to complete the online process and directed to click the “Submit Voter Registration” button. These kinds of instructions would clearly make someone think they’ve submitted their registration. How many people clicked the “Submit Voter Registration” button believing they were completing their registration and then did not send in a paper form because of the confusion? This must be fixed immediately.


Your online voter registration system does not make clear to potential voters that they can register even if they do not have a driver’s license. The website is confusing in its offering of the paper registration form to individuals. Anyone can register with a paper form but the site says to use the paper form for updates only. This needs to be very clear and the website needs to be cleaned up now.


Your website also discourages college students from voting in their campus community and does not provide any clarity to them about registering in their college community and voting in their college community. It contains no helpful information for college students who might be dealing with unprecedented COVID-19 protocols and restrictions that require them to do remote learning and may be causing them to be temporarily away from their campus community. Students do not lose their Ohio residence when they are temporarily away. But your website does not provide any help to these students as they try to navigate registering and voting.


Your website also leads people to believe that there is one voter ID requirement for all methods of voting. It needs to inform people that they can vote early in person by simply using an ID number like the last four digits of their Social Security number.


College students are unique voters because they are new to the process and most students move at least once per year and often twice per year. Add to that the particular circumstances of 2020 where many college students are temporarily away from their campus residence as they stay with parents, friends, or other family because of COVID-19 restrictions.


Mr. Secretary, non-partisan groups asked you to improve your website months ago. Now we are one week away from the close of voter registration and you are presenting inaccurate information to hundreds of thousands of Ohio students. Please update your online voter registration webpage immediately and expand your College Voting webpage with clear, helpful, accurate information. And please make sure every county Board of Elections is also providing accurate information. We need to make voting easy and convenient for voters and that includes our college students who are new to this.


Thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent matter.


Sincerely,


Bride Rose Sweeney


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COLUMBUS— State Representative Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) responded today to national news outlet ProPublica’s revelations that the office of Secretary of State Frank LaRose sought direction from notorious national vote suppressor Hans von Spakovsky before issuing an order banning more than one drop box per county.


There is a hearing today at 3 p.m. in the 10th District Court of Appeals on the drop box issue. Rep. Hicks-Hudson was an affiant in the lawsuit challenges the LaRose/von Spakovsky ban. She affirmed that the Secretary of State told her he would allow more drop boxes if he had a court order supporting the action. Instead, when the court found his ban of multiple drop boxes unreasonable, LaRose appealed the court’s order .


“The Secretary of State was elected to deliver fair elections to all Ohioans and behave in a nonpartisan manner,” Rep. Hicks-Hudson said. “While he holds public Task Force meetings and press conferences and claims to wear ‘the referee’s jersey,’ he’s been secretly soliciting advice from Hans von Spakovsky, a man regarded by voting rights experts as the “country’s worst vote suppressor."


A quick look at Mr. von Spakovsky’s record reveals him to be an intense partisan who has viciously attacked voting rights and fought against expanding the franchise throughout his career. The Secretary of State claims to be transparent but has hidden from Ohioans who he is really taking orders from. Hopefully, the court will see through this deceit and uphold Ohioans' right to a fair and accessible election.”


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Republicans Use House Rules To Hide From Dem Efforts To Repeal HB 6
House Dems say a variety of methods are being used by the Majority to circumvent the traditional legislative process
September 23, 2020
 
 

COLUMBUS – House Democrats areonce again pulling back the curtain on the legislative tricks being used by House Republicans to circumvent the democratic process and prevent the repeal of the tainted House Bill (HB) 6 – the bill at the center of the largest bribery scandal in Ohio’s history and allegedly orchestrated by former Republican Speaker of the House Larry Householder.


Today, House Republicans ensured that no bills were brought to the floor thereby blocking floor amendments and votes. All legislative business was brought before the body in the form of conference reports. Conference reports can be brought up for consideration directly to the House floor, unlike bills and resolutions for third consideration which are required to be placed on the House calendar by the Rules and Reference Committee. Similarly, yesterday, the Finance Committee met for an “informal hearing” rather than an official meeting where Democrats were not permitted to offer amendments to a bill that would shortchange Ohio’s hardest hit COVID-19 areas of millions in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds.


“It is remarkable to watch the Majority Party twist themselves into knots as they find ever more creative ways to avoid our amendments to repeal House Bill 6,” Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) said. “To the everyday Ohioan, it could seem like Republicans are actually calling us back to work and doing something. But the only thing it seems they are doing is protecting their positions at the expense of tax payers. 


Ohioans deserve a legislature that acts with integrity, conducting its business transparently and democratically, not hiding behind obscure Rules that silence discussion. Republicans need to stop these tricks and listen to the majority of Ohioans who want the legislature to tackle the issues most important to them.”


Earlier today, Attorney General David Yost filed a complaint in Franklin County Common Pleas Court that would prevent FirstEnergy and its successor-organizations from benefiting from the increased rates in House Bill (HB) 6 and prohibit the defendants in the case, including former Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder (who was present during House session today and voting on legislation), from holding an elected office or lobbying for eight years. Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus), Ranking Member of the Select Committee on Energy Policy & Oversight said:


“I hope this isn’t a distraction to give Republican leadership cover as they continue to stand in the way of a repeal of House Bill 6. We need to show that Ohio is not for sale... We need to Repeal HB 6 now!”


Right now, 80 percent of voters statewide want to repeal House Bill 6, and 58 of 99 House members have signed on to cosponsor bills that would repeal House Bill 6.House Bill 6 was heard six times in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year, and over 300 testimonies were submitted during that process.


House Democrats have put forth multiple efforts to quickly repeal HB 6 in order to help restore the public’s trust in the legislature, and have called the creation of the Select Committee on Energy Policy & Oversight an unnecessary stall tactic by House Republicans. Yesterday, Rep. Leland, Ranking Member of the Select Committee, called the recent obstruction efforts from Statehouse Republicans an attempt to run out the clock.


On Aug. 11, House Democratic leadership, including Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron), Assistant Minority Leader Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus), Minority Whip Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) and Assistant Whip Rep. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester) filed a protest of the passage of House Bill 6 due to the serious allegations of bribery and pay-to-pay politics that were involved in the deliberations and passage of the bill.


On Aug. 28, Democrats announced they would file a discharge petition to bring bipartisan legislation to repeal HB 6 to the floor for a vote during session on Sept. 1.  House Republicans aggressively worked to thwart the effort by requiring that signatures be done in person and not electronically like all other legislation in an attempt to keep the bill from being brought to the floor in a timely manner. On August 31st, Speaker Cupp created the Select Committee on Energy Policy & Oversight to further study House Bill 6, even though it was studied extensively last year. 


Republican attempts to block the repeal of HB 6 came to a head on Sept. 1 when Speaker Robert Cupp (R-Lima) and House Republicans abruptly ended House session as Democrats readied to offer several amendments to repeal HB 6 on the floor. The session ended abruptly before making it even halfway through the scheduled calendar—an unprecedented move intended to block Democratic efforts to repeal HB 6.


On September 10th, during the first meeting of the Select Committee, Republicans voted to kill a motion to vote House Bill 746 out of committee. On September 16th, during the second meeting of the Select Committee, Chairman Hoops ruled a motion to move House Bill 746 out of committee out of order and adjourned the meeting. And earlier today, Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) made a third attempt to discharge the Republican’s repeal bill from committee and was again gaveled down by the chair.


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COLUMBUS – State Representatives David Leland (D-Columbus) and Jeffrey Crossman (D-Parma) issued statements today in response to Ohio Attorney General David Yost filing a complaint in Franklin County Common Pleas Court that would prevent FirstEnergy and its successor-organizations from benefiting from the increased rates in House Bill (HB) 6 and prohibit the defendants in the case, including former Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder, from holding an elected office or lobbying for eight years.


Representative David Leland (D-Columbus), Ranking Member of the House Select Committee on Energy Policy & Oversight:


“I hope this isn’t a distraction to give Republican leadership cover as they continue to stand in the way of a repeal of House Bill 6.  


This complaint could keep the ill-gotten gains generated from the largest bribery scandal in Ohio history from flowing to FirstEnergy. But the people of Ohio still have to pay $1.3 billion as a result of this corrupt legislation, and this complaint does nothing to prevent that money from being taken out of Ohioans’ pockets.


This complaint does nothing to get Ohioans their money back, and it does nothing to bring back the 100,000-plus green energy jobs House Bill 6 kills. It does nothing to stop the $444 million bailout of two dirty coal plants (one in Indiana). The fact remains that Republican leadership in the legislature is the only thing standing in the way of a full and immediate repeal of House Bill 6.


We need to show that Ohio is not for sale... We need to Repeal HB 6 now!”


Representative Jeffrey Crossman (D-Parma), in response to AG Yost seeking to prohibit Larry Householder from holding an elected office for eight years:


“I made a motion to expel Larry Householder from the Ohio House back in July after we unanimously agreed to remove him as Speaker, but my Republican colleagues voted to keep him in his seat. Since they refuse to remove him and have even allowed Householder himself to come back and vote to preserve the very bill that led to his federal indictment, it is reassuring to see the Attorney General at least seeking an injunction to right this wrong.


But it never should have gotten to this point. He should have been removed back in July. House Republicans could remove him today, but they won’t.”


Rep. Crossman and Rep. Gil Blair (D-Weatherfield) have introduced a bill that would require state lawmakers to reimburse the state for any compensation received following a conviction for public corruption felonies. The bill would also prohibit anyone elected while under felony indictment for public corruption from taking their seat in the General Assembly. That bill has been assigned to the State and Local Government committee where it is yet to have a single hearing.


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Hicks-Hudson Statement On Ohio Voter Registration Failures
State reveals dropped ball on Emancipation Day and National Voter Registration Day
September 22, 2020
 
 

COLUMBUS— State Representative Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) responded today to an announcement by Governor Mike DeWine that state agencies have not been meeting their federally mandated duty to offer voter registration to Ohioans when those Ohioans interact with government offices. Roughly 59,000 voters were affected at one agency.


“Today is Emancipation Day, the day that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1862 for the purpose of abolishing slavery. It is also National Voter Registration Day. I have mixed feelings about these two days sharing a page on the calendar this year because, 158 years later, we are still fighting for the right to vote without obstacles in our path. We still regularly fight for basic voting services like a convenient place to drop your ballot, the inclusion of return postage on our absentee ballots, and an easy way to request those ballots in the first place. And we are also fighting for ease of access to voter registration.


Today, we learned that state agencies have failed in their duty to provide the voter registration opportunity to Ohioans who are supposed to be offered voter registration when they interact with their government. This is a longstanding duty placed on government agencies by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. How has this 27-year-old duty fallen by the wayside? Roughly 59,000 Ohioans tried to use this method of voter registration but were ignored. The state is now playing catch-up.


Last week, we learned that college students at the University of Cincinnati are receiving cryptic error messages by the Secretary of State’s voter registration system when they try to register to vote at their campus address. The Secretary of State defended the practice and says it's because of the BMV. College students have for decades been guaranteed the right to vote in their campus communities. This is not new. Why is the system still failing them? Because the state is not prioritizing their rights.


I am calling on DAS, the BMV, and the Secretary of State to give a full accounting of any problems Ohioans are having with voter registration and what these public offices are doing to immediately fix these problems. Mailing a voter registration form to few thousand people is not enough. Every person who interacts with their government must be provided a voter registration opportunity and we know far more than 59,000 people have been talking to public offices during this pandemic.


It is very hard to celebrate this Emancipation Day when the rights of all Ohioans are still not prioritized by our leaders.”


 

 
 
  
 
Leader Sykes, House Dems Recognize National Voter Registration Day
Urges Republican leadership to pass Dem-sponsored HB 687
September 22, 2020
 
 

COLUMBUS –House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today recognized National Voter Registration Day as an opportunity to encourage participation in this November’s election despite challenges caused by the pandemic and a failure by Republican state leaders to make this unprecedented election more accessible.


“There is still time to register and to make a plan to vote in this November’s election,” said Leader Sykes. “I encourage all eligible Ohioans to register or double check their registration and make a plan to have their voice heard this fall.”


House Democrats have repeatedly advocated for and introduced pro-voter legislation that would ensure anaccessible November election. State Representatives Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) and Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) announced in June the introduction of House Bill 687, a bill to improve voting and address challenges posed by the global pandemic. The bill is a strong contrast with the GOP’s HB 680, which would shorten the time for absentee votingand prevents the Secretary of State from providing return postage for absentee ballots.


Measures that are supported by House Democrats and included in HB 687 include:



  • Counting ballots postmarked by Election Day;



  • Protecting accessible in-person voting opportunities;



  • Greater access to voter registration.


Eligible Ohioans are encouraged to visit voteohio.gov to register or confirm their voter registration, find information on their polling location, sign up to be a poll worker, or to learn how to request and cast an absentee ballot.


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COLUMBUS — Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) issued a statement today following the informal hearing of Senate Bill (SB) 357, which appropriates the remaining $650 million local government Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds.


The distribution formula used for these remaining funds and the committee process that allowed testimony only were unusual. Instead of basing the distribution on the local government fund formula as it was in HB 481 and when Controlling Board has approved other rounds of CARES Act funding, Republicans determined unilaterally that the distribution for SB 357 should be allocated by a per capita formula. This means that more densely populated cities like Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton, Toledo and Akron get substantially shortchanged* millions and more suburban, rural areas are getting increased funding to handle COVID-19 related expenses.


Cleveland         ~$43.9 million


Cincinnati        ~$17.8 million


Dayton              ~$10.2 million


Toledo               ~$8.7 million


Akron                ~$7.6 million


Canton             ~$4.3 million   


Furthermore, House Finance Committee Co-Chairs noticed the committee meeting today as an “informal hearing,” meaning amendments could not be offered from House Democrats. Several Democratic Representatives from some of the areas most shortchanged voiced their disapproval during the meeting. Cleveland Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland), who represents one of the poorest districts in the state and one of the hardest hit by COVID-19, was one of them.


“Let’s call this what it actually is: legislative robbery, electorate bribery and more Republican sleight of hand,” said Rep. Howse. “The human impact of COVID-19 has not been per capita. The areas that are most hardest hit are the ones who are being cut the most by this new funding formula designed by Statehouse Republicans to benefit their own districts. Republicans want to give more to their own communities when their own communities aren’t the ones hurting the most - mine is. And it is being shortchanged $43.9 million and I don’t even have the ability to offer an amendment to this bill to help them.


This bill was passed by the Senate three weeks ago. During that time, Republicans could have been holding public hearings, allowing constituents to weigh in on their desired path forward or permitting House Democrats to offer amendments to make the bill better, but instead Republicans have found a way to circumvent the traditional process and make this allocation as undemocratic and self-serving as possible.”


As House Finance met for this “informal” hearing today to discuss this bill, Senate Republicans were simultaneously amending the $650 million of CARES Act funds into HB 614 during the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee.


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*Editor’s note: A spreadsheet containing estimated allocation comparisons is attached.


 

 
 
  

COLUMBUS— State Reps. Randi Clites (D-Ravenna) and Jeff Crossman (D- Parma) today called on Statehouse leaders to protect Ohioans’ healthcare by advancing the bipartisan Pre-Existing Condition Protection Act, House Bill 390. The call comes after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which has created more uncertainty about the future of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA), including its provision to protect healthcare access for those with pre-existing conditions. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case challenging the ACA’s constitutionality on November 10th of this year.


The Pre-Existing Condition Protection Act, filed in Ohio by Reps. Clites & Crossman, would codify several popular patient protections that are currently guaranteed under the ACA, including coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, into Ohio Law.


“Ohio families cannot afford more political games from Washington while their access to affordable healthcare hangs in the balance during a global pandemic. It’s time to put politics aside and put people first,” said Rep. Clites. “We cannot wait until two million Ohioans with pre-existing conditions lose their health insurance to take action- we must protect patients now.”


“The passing of Justice Ginsburg re-enforces the urgency to pass protections for people with pre-existing conditions here in Ohio.” said Rep. Crossman. “HB 390 has been stalled in the Ohio House for months and our Republican colleagues should join us in making healthcare a top priority for Ohioans. Otherwise, thousands of Ohioans stand to lose their healthcare if the ACA is repealed, weakened, undermined or gutted as the current administration has sought to do without any plan to replace it.”


The Pre-Existing Protection Act would:



  • Protect coverage for those with pre-existing conditions;

  • Limit health insurance premium hikes;

  • Ban annual and lifetime limits on care; and

  • And, protect coverage of essential health benefits, like preventative, maternal and emergency care.


HB 390 has had three hearings in the House Insurance Committee to date. No additional hearings are currently scheduled for the bill.


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COLUMBUS –House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today issued a statement following the news that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away at the age of 87 from complications of cancer.


 “My heart breaks tonight, along with so many other Americans, as together we mourn the loss of a true American treasure.


Justice Ginsburg has been an inspiration to me and to so many other women in the legal profession. She was a champion of equality and reproductive justice as she fought for ALL of us from the bench. She was a trailblazer, a real American hero, and we are a better country because she served on the High Court.


Rest in peace, Notorious RBG.”  


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COLUMBUS –Ohio Democratic Women’s Legislative Caucus Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) today issued a statement following the news that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away at the age of 87 from complications of cancer.


“In living, Ruth Bader Ginsburg showed the whole world what it is to be a fighter. I refuse to see her death as anything but the next chapter for all of us. May her memory be a blessing. Shanah Tovah to all.”


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Democrats Lament Another Broken Promise By LaRose

 

State Reps. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) and Catherine D. Ingram (D-Cincinnati) responded to the state Controlling Board refusing to hear Secretary LaRose’s late request for additional authority to pay return postage for absentee ballots in its meeting yesterday. LaRose said he will come back to the Board in mid-September, but absentee ballot applications are set to be mailed to 7.8 Million Ohio voters before that – around Labor Day – without return postage. The members have been urging LaRose for months to use existing authority of his office to pay return postage for both applications and ballots.



 
 

Democrats Urge LaRose To Keep His Word To Ohio Voters

 

State Reps. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) and Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) responded to Secretary LaRose’s announcement that he is requesting additional permission from the state Controlling Board to pay return postage for voting materials. The deadline for submitting such requests was Monday, Aug. 17 for the Board’s Aug. 24 meeting. No request from LaRose’s office appears yet on the Controlling Board’s website. It is unclear whether the late request will be added to the meeting agenda or what specifically is being requested.  



 
 

Democrats Unite To Tell LaRose: Do Your Job

 

The House Democratic Caucus today sent a letter to Secretary of State Frank LaRose addressing recent major developments in Ohio’s elections. Last week, the country watched in horror as Post Office mailboxes and processing machinery were dismantled and removed across the country and in Ohio.



 
 

OLBC President Rep. Stephanie Howse Urges Action On Pay Equity On Black Women's Equal Pay Day

 

Ohio Legislative Black Caucus President Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) today urged action on the Ohio Equal Pay Act, legislation alongside Rep. Randi Clites (D-Ravenna) that would recognize the full value and potential of Ohio’s working women.