Thursday, October 26, 2006

Lawsuit to Protect the Right to Vote

NEOCH Files Suit to Assure the Elderly, Students, and Homeless People Participate in Democracy

The Homeless Coalition and the Service Employee International Union in Columbus filed suit on Monday against the current Secretary of State over the requirement for Ohio voters to show identification at the polling place. Many homeless people have problems keeping identification. Because of theft and the constant requirement to move around it is very likely that you will have to get new identification during your stay in the homeless community. Basically, homeless people must carry all of their belongings with them all the time. In talking to local homeless service providers, we find that between 20 to 30 percent of homeless population does not have identification or 800 to 1,200 homeless people on November 7 will not have identification in Cuyahoga County.

This is not a huge number compared to the half million voters, but then when we add in students, elderly, and poor people who may not have the proper ID it starts becoming big numbers. Then when you add the thousands of poll workers who will not understand the law and will disenfranchise voters who have an ID that does not match the address in the poll workers book, we start seeing large numbers who will not be able to vote. Then we find that the 88 counties are interpreting the law in much different ways, we see that Ohio will not have a uniform group of voters. So, if you happen to be poor in Youngstown there are stricter rules than in Cuyahoga County and you may not be able to vote just because you happen to live in one part of the state.

This is why NEOCH signed onto the lawsuit and are spending staff time these last two week to stop this horrible law from disenfranchising thousands of citizens. I have learned that there are many people who love going to the polls on election day. They have a history with the workers and they want to interact with others. They do not trust the mail and they feel they are part of democracy by going somewhere to vote. This will be difficult for many if our lawsuit does not prevail. We thank Subodh Chandra and the attorneys at Porter Wright in Dayton for all their work and the excellent complaint that they filed.

NEOCH testified against this horrible piece of legislation passed in early 2006. The state legislators did not listen to the experts who work on these issues everyday. They "fixed" a troubled system making it more complicated and addressing none of the problems. They did not hear how difficult it is to receive a birth certificate if you were not born in Ohio. The birth certificate is the basis of all ID. They did not listen when experts told them that illegal voters were not the problem. The problems were with training, staffing for election day and the standards for electronic voting. In fact, on the day I went down there was not one elections officer or activist testified in favor of HB 3.

We hope that this lawsuit prevails and we can have a fair and free election on November 7.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

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