NEOCH and SEIU vs. Blackwell and the State of Ohio Results
Three brave homeless and low income people came to Columbus one week before the November election to fight for the rights of all voters in Ohio. They woke up a 5 a.m. to drive to Columbus and wait for 11 hours while lawyers negotiated. Pam Denton, Micky Trammell and Cornell Bishop all made the trip and sat in a jury room for hours waiting for a hearing to start while the State of Ohio negotiated with our team of lawyers. We got what we came for in that everyone will have the chance to cast a ballot and those that have a social security number will have those votes counted. We will not have a repeat of the 2004 election when many of the provisional ballots were thrown out on technical grounds.
We consider this a huge victory for homeless people and those who have any issues with their identification. The State saved face over this horrible piece of legislation that they passed by keeping the ID provision in place for the regular ballots. Anyone who shows up with either no identification or a problem with their ID will cast a provisional ballot. The big difference is that you will not have to show up within 10 days to prove anything or sign some affidavit that poll workers do not understand. If you have a social security number, you will give the last four digits of that number and sign the book as you normally did and you will get a provisional ballot that will not be challenged later.
The rules for what "other government document" as an acceptable form of ID were clarified. And the absentee ballots that were cast with problems will count. This allows the absentee ballots that were cast during this last confused week to count and those with the wrong driver's license number to count.
Our main named adversary who has not supervised this election very well, Ken Blackwell, was actually willing to compromise throughout this process. The problem was former Clevelander, Jim Petro, who we waited for hours to make up his mind. The Columbus paper identified Petro as leading the negotiations. It was also mentioned in a few newspaper accounts that Jeff Jacobson, the Republican Senate leader, had taken an active interest in defending the law. While not present at the negotiations, Legislative leaders were known to be pushing Petro to defend their confusing law.
There were so many lawyers who helped with this lawsuit and should be thanked. I don't know all of them, but Subodh Chandra, Cleveland's previous Law Director, led the negotiations along with Caroline Gentry from Dayton's Porter Wright Morris and Arthur office. Mark Griffin from Cleveland helped prepare the homeless people who were going to testify. Gino Scarselli, who years ago served as a NEOCH Board member, helped prepare and drive homeless people down to Columbus. He had a long history with representing homeless people and represented the Coalition's interests well. John Gilligan from Columbus prepared the expert witnesses for the case. And the many other attorneys had boxes and boxes of testimony and declarations ready to go for a trial. They all did a ton of work on short notice, and we certainly thank them all.
Since none of us actually got to testify, I will post the stories that our three voters were going to tell the court in the next week. I have to get back to making sure people get to the polling places and our constituents are not disenfranchised. One note about why Cleveland is still better than Columbus. While we were sitting for hours, our car was in a parking garage which tragically CLOSED at 6:30 p.m.!!! My car was stuck in the garage, and we were trapped in Columbus. Luckily my parents opened up their house to the three voting rights activists who came down to testify or we would have all been wandering the rolled up streets of Columbus. Who closes a parking garage at 6:30 p.m?? We must work harder in Cleveland, because most of us are still working at 6:30 p.m. Anyway, thanks to Rosamond and Charles Davis for their hospitality to four very tired recently enfranchised voters.
Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.