Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Thank You County Council

Transformational Art Center at the Bishop Cosgrove Center.  Photo by Luke Drotar. Look for an article and more pictures in the next Street Chronicle to hit the streets soon. 

Voter Mailing Going Forward
We have covered this story over the last two weeks over the controversy over mailing of absentee ballots here and hereA great deal of back and forth between the State of Ohio and County Executive Ed Fitzgerald took place over the last week.  The Plain Dealer scolded the two with an editorial asking that the Secretary of State and the County Executive to work things out.  Setting aside the fact that the local newspaper should always defend our local politicians (no matter what party) against any state intrusion in local decision making, we did not understand what Fitzgerald was being scolded for by the PD.

There was a comment in one of the blog postings about voting regarding the collective bargaining ballot issue and voting "A good way to gain momentum (is) to shove Issue 2 down the rest is the state's throat. Are you about homelessness or political advocacy?"  I am not sure what this comment means since we have not commented on SB 5 in a few months, but our answer is both.  NEOCH is about advocacy organization and a homeless organization.  We are about forwarding solutions to homelessness and not just offering charity to the population, Cousin.  We believe that we need to involve ourselves in policy discussions so that we do not continue to send people into homelessness or continue to make it more difficult to get into stable housing.  When we cut funds to affordable housing, or eliminate job training programs for homeless people, or make it more difficult for homeless people to vote, NEOCH comments.  This is not a feeling among our staff; it is our mission.  Forwarding public policy and protecting homeless people from bad laws is the reason that NEOCH was created.  We have an obligation to notify the public about advocacy that has an impact on homeless people, and our membership has come to expect this information over the last 20 years.

Voting is the cornerstone of democracy, and if anyone in our society needs to vote it is the homeless individual.  They see how government policy has failed, and should be first in line to call for changes.  They, of all citizens, need to petition their elected officials to fix the long wait for subsidized housing, the unfair wait for disability screenings, the poverty level assistance for those born with a disability, or the crippling debt caused by a chronic health condition.  The changes in the rules for voting will make it more difficult for those with a low income and especially homeless people to participate in the democratic process, and therefore it is an issue for NEOCH.  If not NEOCH who will place these issues in the court of public opinion?  Homeless people have a great deal going on in their life such as looking for housing, a job and a place to sleep every night, and they deserve a reminder from Cuyahoga County concerning "vote by mail" opportunities.  Just getting a piece of mail from your government while you are homeless gives you a small sense that you are still equal to the citizen living in Moreland Hills, and therefore it is worth the expense.

We have to congratulate the Cuyahoga County Council and Executive who put aside politics and vote 10 to 0 to send out the mailing.  Both Republican and Democrat saw that their constituent would benefit from this information.  They realized that anything that we can do to keep down the lines on election day is important.  We should do anything we can to not overwhelm those sweet older women at the polling places as a government.  State officials tried everything they could do to interfere with the voting process, by falsely claiming that this would given Cuyahoga County an unfair advantage.  The Secretary of State improperly threatened that he could force the Board of Election to reject those applications.  How could the board distinguish between the mailing and the form printed out from the Secretary of State website?  And then the state auditor said that he could look at the County expense to see if it served a public purpose.  How could encouraging voting not be a public purpose?   All of these statements can only be seen as activities to disenfranchise voters and suppress turnout.   Thank you County Council members for setting aside politics and doing the right thing for your constituents.  This is a victory for our advocacy and good government.

Post Script:  Thank you to State Representatives: Budish, Foley, Antonio, and Williams as well as State Senators Mike Skindell and Nina Turner wrote a letter to the Justice Department asking for an investigation regarding voter suppression activities.  This is similar to the letter the National Coalition wrote to the Justice Department regarding voter suppression activities around the United States and specifically in Ohio.  

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