Ohio Was Set to Purge 235,000 Voters. It Was Wrong About 20%

From today’s New York Times:

The clock was ticking for Jen Miller. The state of Ohio had released names of 235,000 voters it planned to purge from voter rolls in September. Ms. Miller, director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, believed thousands of voters were about to be wrongly removed.

Over the summer, the Ohio secretary of state had sent her organization and others like it amassive spreadsheet with the 235,000 names and addresses that would be purged from the state’s voter rolls in just a month — a list of people that, state officials said, some part of the bureaucracy flagged as deceased, living somewhere else or as a duplicate. The League of Women Voters had been asked to see if any of those purged qualified to register again.

Ms. Miller, who spends her work day helping register people to vote, scrolled through the names and then asked herself a question: What was her own voter status in the state? She went online and discovered that her name had also been flagged as an inactive voter. The state was in the process of removing her from its voter rolls.

“I voted three times last year,” said Ms. Miller. “I don’t think we have any idea how many other individuals this has happened to.”

Ohio, where the Democratic presidential candidates are set to debate Tuesday, is both a battleground state and the site of some of the country’s strictest voting laws, from voter ID requirements to a “use-it-or-lose-it” provision that lets officials drop voters seen as inactive.

The combination has led voting rights advocates to contend that parts of the state are regularly disenfranchised, largely in purges aimed at those who have died or moved away, but which also hit real voters who don’t learn they can’t vote until Election Day. Election officials in other battlegrounds such as Florida, North Carolina, Georgia and Texas regularly purge their voter lists as well.

Read the complete article here.

Drive Against Gerrymandering Finds New Life in Ballot Initiatives

From today’s New York Times:

The movement to take politics out of setting legislative district boundaries seemed to suffer a grievous, and perhaps even mortal, blow this spring when the Supreme Court passed up three chances to declare partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional.

But it turns out that reports of its death are exaggerated. As federal courts dither over how to resolve the issue, activists have begun tackling it state by state at the grass roots.

In Michigan, a proposed constitutional amendment to end gerrymandering, written and promoted by a nonpartisan group called Voters Not Politicians, will be on the ballot in November, unless blocked by a court challenge that has so far fallen short. So many Michiganders signed petitions to bring the measure to a vote — 110,000 more than state law requires — that the group ended its signature campaign 70 days short of the six months allowed.

In Missouri, another nonpartisan group called Clean Missouri needed 180,000 signatures to get its anti-gerrymander initiative on the ballot; it collected 346,000. Final certification is expected next month.

In Utah, a group called Better Boundaries collected 190,000 signatures, 75,000 more than were required, to place its proposition to end gerrymanders on the November ballot.

And in Colorado, both the Democratic-run state House and the Republican-run Senate voted unanimously in May to place two proposals on the November ballot that would shift the duty to draw state legislative and congressional districts away from lawmakers and into the hands of independent redistricting commissions.

Those proposals join another, in Ohio, that became law in May. The state legislature there put a measure to curb partisan gerrymandering of the state’s congressional districts on the ballot for the state’s May 8 primary, after it became apparent that a citizens’ campaign for an even tougher measure was likely to succeed. Ohioans approved the legislature’s version by a three-to-one margin.

Read the complete article here.

OH voters reject Republican agenda to limit public unions

In a stinging defeat of the Republican’s national agenda to undermine workers’ rights, voters in the state of Ohio roundly rejected a ballot initiative that would have limited public unions. Specifically, the law would require union members to pay 15 percent of their health care costs, as well as stripped them of their right to collective bargaining.

With 97 percent of the precincts in Ohio reporting, the law was rejected by 61 percent of voters compared to 39 percent who supported it. The vote was closely watched by other states who are contemplating similar measures in order to force unions to help them reign in budget deficits.

However, the short-sightedness of such measures, which were passed in Wisconsin last year and failed to pass in Indiana, must be pointed out. If workers in the public sector are stripped of their rights, like workers in private sector, all workers will lose as more power over wages, employment conditions, and job benefits are ceded to employers. While corporate profits are at record highs in spite of the dismal recession and anemic labor market, real wages for working individuals and families continues the pace of its decades long decline.

It should be apparent to many working people in America that the social contract is broken, and that the ideal of equality of opportunity is tarnished in an economic environment in which the wealthiest makes gains at the expense of the least well-off. If America wants to return its economy to a position of competitiveness, this will not happen with macroeconomic magic tricks like “quantitative easing” or new social media that allow morons to tweet their dinner preferences. Americans must demand better wages, better working conditions, and a new social contract that is committed to redistributing the benefits and burdens of capitalism according to our ideals of justice.