Ohio

  • December 10, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    During his early morning re-election speech, President Obama took note of the difficulties scores of voters faced in casting ballots this year, such as standing in lengthy, slow-moving lines for hours. Something we have to fix the president said. 

    Many of the problems for voters this election year, as noted often on this blog, were created by lawmakers in a string of states apparently bent on making voting a more difficult procedure, though they cloaked the intentions in language about protecting the integrity of the vote. But a closer examination of the actions taken by those lawmakers – limiting early voting hours, clamping down on voter registration drives and implementing onerous voter ID requirements – revealed political efforts to keep certain people away from the polls, namely minorities, college students, low-income people and the elderly. See the ACS Issue Brief by Loyola law school professor Justin Levitt on many of the restrictive vote measures, which he concluded made for poor and potentially unconstitutional policy.

    The Washington Post editorial board in “Repairing America’s elections,” highlighting voting difficulties in Northern Virginia, noted in part, “Poorly trained poll workers get confused by constantly changing laws and procedures. Voter registration and record-keeping are getting more high-tech, but there are still many kinks. Many states lack policies that could take some of the pressure off, such as early voting.”

    The editorial reports that some in Congress, such as Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) and Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) are pushing a measure similar to the Obama administration’s educational “Race to the Top,” initiative. That measure, in part, would “dangle the possibility of grants to states that put together election reform programs” that include expansion of early voting and “more flexible registration rules ….”

  • November 6, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The evolution of the nation’s democratic process has been arduous, tragic and bloody. And the process which still excludes too many remains a work in progress.  

    It took a Civil War, constitutional amendments and eradication of Jim Crow for African Americans to be able to participate in democracy. But dogged bigots still worked on ways to keep blacks from the polls. The Voting Rights Act, enacted in 1965, was a step by the federal government to drag recalcitrant states into line and stop harassment and oppression of African Americans at the polls. We now have several states with long, tawdry histories of discriminating against minorities at the polls, fighting to gut a major enforcement provision of the VRA. (Some of those state officials, in Alabama, for instance argue that discrimination at the polls does not exist anymore and therefore Section 5 of the VRA needs to be dumped. Congress, however, has found ample evidence that discrimination against minorities at the polls is not a thing of the past.)

    It wasn’t until 1920 when women gained the right to vote via a constitutional amendment. In summer 1920 the 19th Amendment was ratified after a close vote in the Tennessee legislature. “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of Sex,” it reads. And the ratification of the 19th Amendment didn’t happen overnight; it was nearly a 70-year work in progress.   

    Over at The Dish, Andrew Sullivan notes a “quick and comprehensive lesson” on voting rights, linking to a video, “Democracy Distilled: Examining the Evolution of our Nation’s Voting Rights.”

    The video, less than 4 minutes, notes, “When our nation was founded, voting rights were anything but equal. The freedoms we have today represent two centuries of successes and failures made by individuals constantly battling to make their voices heard.” Watch it here, or below the jump.

    The “battle” for voting rights though is one that we will likely drag on. The Supreme Court has given corporations greater power drown out individual voices and there remain too many state efforts to make voting difficult.

  • December 12, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Advocates for repealing the death penalty say there are hopeful signs that 2012 will see great progress toward their goal, Politico reports.

    Efforts are underway in California, Kansas, Ohio, Maryland and Connecticut to dump the use of the death penalty. Politico notes, “Advocates say the coming year could be their best opportunity yet to replace the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole in these states, pointing to shifts in public opinion, rising concern over execution costs, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber’s recent decision to place a moratorium on capital punishment, and Troy Davis’s high-profile execution galvanizing opposition to the death penalty.”

    Diann Rust-Tierney, head of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, told Politico that Davis’s case helped spark greater attention to how states employ capital punishment. “That was a sad but stark example to folks of how broken the system is,” Rust-Tierney said.

    Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said, “Any of those [state efforts] could succeed, but they’re all teed up for this coming year."

    As Politico notes, the SAFE California Campaign, which is working to place an initiative before voters next year to abolish the death penalty, has cited the enormous costs – in the billions – of carrying out the death penalty in a state burdened with significant budgetary woes .  

    In a Dec. 2 guest post for ACSblog, Andrew Love, a death penalty lawyer in California, noted, “A study released by U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Arthur L. Alarcon found that California’s death penalty system is currently costing the state about $184 million per year. Further, ‘since reinstating the death penalty in 1978, California taxpayers have spent roughly $4 billion to fund a dysfunctional death penalty system that has carried out no more than 13 executions.'"

  • July 5, 2011

    An Ohio law aimed at greatly curtailing the rights of public workers has sparked massive protests and what appears to be a successful drive to place it before voters this fall. Opposition has also formed against similar anti-collective bargaining laws in Michigan and Wisconsin.  

    More than a million Ohioans recently signed a petition to put  the law, Senate Bill 5, on the November ballot, in hopes of repealing it, The Plain Dealer recently reported. The signatures, the newspaper added, were “ceremoniously” delivered to the Secretary of State’s office in Columbus by more than 6,000 marchers. The newspaper said the more than 1 million signatures “are the most in more than a decade at least,” to be submitted to state officials.

    Melissa Fazekas, a spokeswoman for We Are Ohio, a group that launched the petition drive to repeal the anti-collective bargaining law, also lauded the large number of marchers involved in submitting the signatures, saying they “are proof that while our campaign may be out spent, we will never be out worked, or out volunteered or out supported by hard working Ohioans.”

    Like his counterparts in Wisconsin and Michigan, Gov. Kasich argued that Senate Bill 5, which The New York Times noted could cut public sector jobs in parts of the state where the private sector has long stopped producing opportunities, is necessary to help local officials overcome budget shortfalls.

    In a guest post for ACSblog, Ohio State University law school professor James J. Brudney, said the claims in both Ohio and Wisconsin that fiscal conditions are the reasons to limit collective bargaining have been “exposed as a smokescreen.”

    Brudney continued:

    Fiscal crises are occurring in states like Texas and Virginia that bar collective bargaining. And 2010 budget deficits are as high in the nine states that banned collective bargaining for most all public employees as in the fifteen states that allowed it for theirs. Tellingly, leading proponents of Senate Bill 5 asserted as their core justification for the bill not money but flexibility. The Senate bill author and Ohio’s governor talked constantly about the need for flexibility to manage Ohio’s public workforce. Yet Ohio’s experience since collective bargaining became lawful in 1983 makes it very hard to make a case for inflexibility.

  • April 13, 2011
    Guest Post

    By James J. Brudney, the Newton D. Baker-Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law, Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law


    Ohio’s new law on collective bargaining, (Senate Bill 5) eviscerates rights for teachers, police, firefighters, and other public employees, rights that have been in place since 1983. In order to understand how this has happened, it makes sense to start with the question why should we care? Does access to collective bargaining really matter to us as Americans, beyond those workers who are represented by unions?

    The short answer is an emphatic Yes. Collective bargaining is important to us as a nation for several reasons. First, there is our economic welfare. The growth of collective bargaining promotes a fairer distribution of resources and enhances mass purchasing power. For teachers, police, firefighters, health care workers, and others, it helps create and maintain a robust middle class. A sizable middle class enables these millions of Americans to contribute to economic well-being for the rest of us, by purchasing consumer goods, investing in higher education for their children, buying homes, taking family vacations, etc.

    Collective bargaining also enhances democratic decision-making in our everyday lives.Most working Americans spend the bulk of their waking hours in their place of employment. Collective bargaining reinforces our national commitment to self-government by respecting the role of employee voice as a meaningful part of workplace decision-making: this includes sharing both benefits and burdens between workers and management.

    Relatedly, the quality of public services is enhanced by collective bargaining. Treating teachers, police, and firefighters with dignity, and crediting their collective views on how to do their jobs, allows local governments to perceive certain challenges more clearly and then to negotiate practical solutions. Policemen bargained successfully for bulletproof vests not because cities and counties didn’t want them to have this safety equipment but because police unions made it a priority. Likewise, teacher unions have bargained for many terms and conditions that improve our schools, including required class planning time, smaller class sizes, tougher student disciplinary policies, and mentoring programs for new teachers.