Saturday, November 18, 2006

Our Homeless Voting Rights Activists

Homeless Voters Wait Out Ohio Attorney General

There is no doubt that the 2006 Ohio Voter ID law was a way to keep poor people away from the polling place. We challenged this law and won a huge victory. The Secretary of State repeatedly refused to follow the law. Blackwell did not inform the Boards of Elections on the proper method for implementing the law, and this forced thousands of voters to cast a provisional ballot instead of a regular ballot. In Franklin County this has real consequences. As many as four races are still up in the air, and it will hinge on the results of the provisional ballots. Lawyers spent all last week working out how those ballots will be counted. There was a good summary by Subodh Chandra that another blog posted here.

I never got the chance to describe the three individuals who went down to Columbus from the Cleveland shelters to secure the right to vote. Pam is a graduate of Spelman College and grew up in Birmingham, Alabama during the last days of segregation. Her cousin was one of the children killed in the bombings. She told us the night we met with the lawyer that she was surprised that Ohio was doing what Bull Connors was trying to do in the South. We viewed the Southern attempts to block voters as racist, but Ohio's rules were passed under the guise of "preventing fraud." She is a very strong woman who volunteers and had a very stable life in the suburbs. She is trying to do everything to help her husband who is confined to a nursing home, which has brought her to the brink of financial ruin. Her driver's license expired and she had no address to put on a new license. What would you do? Pam fought for the right to participate in democracy?

Cornell was a veteran of the U.S. military. He just wants to be left alone at this point. He has medical issues, but has found a way to survive within the shelters. He had identification, but it was from a previous address, and that was not the address that the Board of Elections had on file. This would have confused the poll workers and there is no guarantee with Cornell would be able to vote.

Micky was also a veteran and had struggled with homelessness for an extended period of time. He volunteers at 2100 Lakeside to make sure the area remains safe. He loves walking the neighborhood to make sure that it stays clean and safe. His issue was that the only form of ID he owned was his Public Housing identification. It was unclear to everyone whether "other government document" included a public housing identification since they are a quasi-government entity.

So, all three waited all day in a jury room for a trial that did not ever start. They all were happy to have participated and were glad that they made a difference.

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

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