Professor Dan Tokaji

  • November 13, 2012

    by LaShawn Y. Warren

    As we move past the 2012 elections and turn our eyes toward a host of pressing political, social, and economic issues, we must not lose sight of the continuing voting challenges unearthed by these elections. While significant progress has been made to expand access to the ballot box, we cannot ignore the persistent attempts to thwart participation through onerous photo ID requirements and other voting restrictions. Last week’s elections clearly demonstrated just how much more improvement is needed. Poorly trained poll workers, machine breakdowns, and inaccurate voter registration lists produced long lines that forced voters to wait hours simply to vote.

    In Florida, voters were still waiting in line at two in the morning, as President Obama ended his victory speech. This was in addition to arbitrary rules for in-person absentee balloting, voting machines paper jams, and election officials in one Florida county informing voters they could vote through Wednesday! Fortunately, this was not a close election and a dramatic replay of 2000 was avoided, but the potential for electoral chaos remains systemic in the administration of our elections. As a key battleground state, the spotlight is frequently on voting issues in Florida, but these types of problems occur over and over again across the nation. 

    In a country that leads the world in the development of trend setting technology, it is difficult to imagine why our elections remain so antiquated. “We’re the greatest democracy in the world,” Tom Brokaw said, covering yet another election night. “But when voting time comes, we do everything but get a candle and a nightgown and walk in somewhere and make a mark with a sharp stick of some kind.  It's crazy.” It is more than crazy; it is shameful. Voting is essential to our constitutional order and the health of our democracy. It is central to the essence of citizenship. We should pride ourselves in making it easy for citizens to participate in the political process.

  • November 9, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Right-wing policymakers triumphed impressively last year taking control of many statehouses from coast to coast. Many of those lawmakers were ushered into office backed by Tea Party fervor, and lots of money from the likes of Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers, who head Koch Industries and espouse efforts to radically constrain government.

    A year after their sweeping victories, however, some of their most outrageous policies were shelved by large numbers of voters last night.

    The frontal assault on public sector workers in Ohio, as noted by the Plain Dealer, was squashed by voters, 61 percent to 39 percent. In a guest post for ACSblog, Ohio State University law school professor Dan Tokaji noted that SB 5, which gutted collective bargaining rights of public workers, was a “center of Governor Kasich’s first year in office.” Tokaji said the defeat of the anti-workers’ rights law was not only a major setback to the Republican governor, but also has ramifications outside the Buckeye state. If the law would have survived, Tokaji said it would have dealt a “crippling blow to organized labor, drastically curtailing its political influence.”

    Mississippi provided a mixed bag, defeating a radical anti-abortion measure, but supporting a stringent new voter registration law. As noted by The New York Times, perhaps one of the night’s “biggest surprises” was the state’s rejection of a proposed constitutional amendment that would grant legal rights to embryos, effectively outlawing abortion and other forms of birth control in the state. That policy was advocated by a Religious Right group called Personhood USA, which says it is pushing similar measures all over the country, and doing so, in part, “to glorify Jesus Christ in a way that creates a culture of life so that all innocent human lives are protected by love and by law.”

    Following defeat of the measure, Keith Ashley in a blog post for Personhood USA said the group understands the difficulty of “changing a culture,” and that it vows “to continue on this path towards affirming the basic dignity and human rights of all people ….”  

    Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center of Reproductive Rights, hailed the defeat of the Personhood Amendment, saying in a press statement, “Outlawing medical services commonly used and relied upon by Americans in their personal lives runs completely counter to the U.S. Constitution, not to mention some of our most deeply held American political traditions and values.”

  • November 8, 2011
    Guest Post

    By Dan Tokaji, the Robert M. Duncan/Jones Day Designated Professor in Law, Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law. Tokaji is also a member of the ACS Board.


    On Tuesday, Ohio voters rejected Issue 2, a measure that would have sharply limited the collective bargaining rights of public-sector employees. The outcome of this measure is significant for workers’ rights. But its greatest importance lies in its significance for the balance of political power, not just in Ohio but across the country.

    Issue 2 was a ballot referendum asking voters for a thumbs-up or thumbs-down vote on SB 5, a statute passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor John Kasich.  At the start of his administration, Governor Kasich took a very aggressive posture, memorably warning people to “get on the bus, or we’re going to run you over.”

    SB 5 became the centerpiece of Governor Kasich’s first year in office.  The law was advertised as a way of cutting government expenses and creating a more business-friendly environment for private-sector employers.   It was supported by most Republicans and opposed by Democrats in the state legislature.

    Without getting too deeply into the details of this long and complex statute, suffice it to say that SB 5/Issue 2 would have significantly weakened public-sector labor unions – including those representing police officers, firefighters, teachers, and many other local and state employees.   Not surprisingly, this change engendered fierce opposition from organized labor. Opponents collected enough signatures to put the law to a vote of the people as the state constitution allows.  

    Unquestionably, the defeat of Issue 2 is a black eye for Governor Kasich. The consequences of Issue 2’s defeat, however, go well beyond Ohio’s borders. 

    To see why, it’s helpful to consider what would have happened if Issue 2 had succeeded.  The measure would have dealt a crippling blow to organized labor, drastically curtailing its political influence.  This is especially significant in our post -- Citizens United world, in which there are effectively no limits on corporate campaign expenditures.  In this world, the only counterbalancing force to corporate political influence – at least the only one with enough money to make a major impact – is organized labor.