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Ohio House Democrats support voter suppression in poor counties

A man completing his ballot at a polling place
A man completing his ballot at a polling place
Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

COLUMBUS, Ohio, February 11, 2014 -- The Ohio House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee moved two bills through on Tuesday afternoon to address the state’s elections process. In a complete display of hypocrisy, some Ohio House Democrats and the League of Women Voters supported suppressing the votes of citizens in poor counties. Another Democrat explained how we should value the access to voting in the same manner in which we handle the second amendment, possibly implying that a background check, waiting period and photo identification would be appropriate for our voting process.

One of the bills discussed would eliminate the “golden week,” the week during which someone can both register to vote and vote at the same time. The second bill changed who could mail absentee ballot request forms to Ohio’s registered voters.

Currently, the state of Ohio allows early voting to begin 35 days before election day. Then, voter registration ends after six more days, with voters registered at least 29 days before the actual day of the election. In addition, absentee ballot request forms are mailed out to all of the registered voters in the state, so it is possible to vote without ever leaving home.

During a discussion in the committee Tuesday on the bill sponsored by Rep. John Becker (R) that would end early voting the Friday before the election at 6pm and eliminate golden week, the Democrats argued that the Sunday and Monday before the election are important to early voting. Rep. Ron Gerberry (D) explained that churches often gather people to go and vote that Sunday, especially in the urban centers, areas where the Democrats are more likely to gain votes.

These, and others, frequently receive a ride to the polls from someone else because it is more convenient for them. The Speaker Pro Tempore, Rep. Matt Huffman (R), asked why we have to change the system for those who get a ride to the polls. “Is that really who we want to cater to?” he asked.

Becker and Huffman both asked, how many days of early voting will be enough? One can assume that, in theory, if 35 days are enough but 25 days or even 1 day are too few, then perhaps 50 days or 100 days would be appropriate. In fact, one representative suggested in jest that perhaps Ohioans should be permitted to vote for six months.

Republicans have received information from directors of the various boards of elections throughout the state that they need Saturday, Sunday and Monday to prepare for voting on Tuesday, and that it is “chaos” as it stands today with early voting going through Monday. However, Gerberry claimed that he has never heard of a county having such chaos.

Of course, Democrats believe that Republicans are suppressing the vote. Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D), who serves on the committee, has appeared on MSNBC in the past to rail against Ohio’s current and proposed laws.

Yet, an amendment was introduced by a Democrat that would allow the counties in Ohio that could afford it to mail out the absentee ballot requests themselves, rather than having the authority centralized under the Secretary of State’s office.

Speaking up against the amendment, Rep. Andrew Brenner* (R) explained that this is clearly voter suppression. The counties with less funding would be unable to send an absentee ballot request form due to lack of funds. The well-funded counties could mail the forms. Therefore, those living in the poorer counties in the state of Ohio would have their votes suppressed.

A representative from the League of Women Voters, Clyde and others specifically stated that it is not voter suppression because it is not their responsibility of other counties cannot afford to mail the request forms. When Brenner reiterated the position that all counties should be equally treated by having the Secretary of State mail the requests to all of the counties so that everyone has equal access to voting absentee, the reaction was clear: voter suppression, when promoted by the Democrats, is entirely acceptable.

Demonstrating the Democrats’ need to grasp at straws, Rep. Mike Curtain (D) suggested that the right to vote is the same as the second amendment. He confirmed that Americans have the right to bear arms, just as citizens have the right to vote. And, that there should be access to both. Therefore, he would not support a bill that would move forward what he perceives as a restriction of a fundamental right.

Imagine for a moment that the second amendment and voting were approached in the same manner, and both accessible with similar ease as Curtain suggests. When voting, in many states, you would need to go to the polling place to have a background check, wait three days, and then return to the polling place with your photo identification in order to vote. Ohio does not currently require photo identification to vote, and Democrats have fought similar proposals.

To further the comparison, a voter would have to take a 12 hour class if you wanted to vote in a hidden manner, such as in your home voting absentee, just as one has to do in Ohio to obtain a conceal carry permit. If Democrats want to see freedom applied similarly between the second amendment and all voting rights amendments and laws, they must severely restrict the manner which Ohio’s citizens vote. If the Democratic Party wants to compare the second amendment of the United States constitution to the right to vote, then let’s have that comparison, all the way through adding all of the hoops to voting through which Ohioans must jump to exercise the right to own a gun.

The franchise is expressed as an activity that is supposed to required effort -- “exercising the right to vote.” The word ‘exercise’ specifics a requirement for movement, for effort and for intent. Citizens have a right to vote, not a guarantee to vote, and if returning a mailed in envelope over 35 days is not enough for you to be able to vote, what should be? Do we need 100 days? Must we launch phone-in voting so that citizens may use their ‘Obama phones’ to place their votes? The ridiculousness of the implications from the left highlight their hypocrisy and their inability to be bi-partisan on this issue. This is is all about solidifying the Democratic voter base and turning out their voters. Mind you, Democrats apparently believe these voters are too incompetent to drive themselves to the polls, find a postage stamp to mail in an absentee ballot, or vote over the course of a couple of weeks at a local polling center.

The right to vote is something that men and women have fought to protect in America. The hypocrisy of the left is abominable, and hearing the Democrats openly support voter suppression when they rail against it repeatedly is an utter disgrace.

Perhaps absentee voting without fault provides possibilities for many. Otherwise, the process of voting is called an ‘exercise’ for a reason, and if someone is not compelled to put forth a minute amount of effort, that individual deserves the government we are given.

*Disclosure: Rep. Andrew Brenner is the husband of the writer, Sara Marie Brenner.

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