U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) released the following statement today after Judge Peter C. Economus of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio ruled to restore in-person early voting for the last three days prior to Election Day.
"We should be removing barriers to the ballot, not creating them. Today's decision affirms that early voting should remain intact for three of the busiest voting days, including the Sunday before the election, when many Ohioans choose to fulfill both their spiritual and civic obligations on the same day," Brown said. "In the past two years, we've seen a trend of voter suppression bills signed into law across the country--including H.B. 194 and H.B. 224 here in Ohio. These efforts, under the guise of preventing fraud and cutting spending, are part of a cynical effort to obstruct poll access. As a former Secretary of State of Ohio, I believe that our democracy is strengthened when more eligible voters can vote.
"Why shouldn't Ohioans working two or three jobs on top of getting children to school have access to the polls at a more convenient time?" Brown added. "These voter suppression tactics cannot and should not stand. Judge Economus has ruled correctly in restoring early voting rights for all Ohioans."
In July 2011, Governor John Kasich signed into law H.B. 194, which cut the number of early voting days in half, eliminated voting on the weekend before an election, removed the requirement that poll workers direct voters to their proper precinct, and prohibited county boards of elections from mailing unsolicited absentee ballots. Although enough signatures were gathered to put the measure to a referendum, the Ohio state legislature--rather than have its unpopular law put to the ballot--chose to repeal H.B. 194. The state legislature then passed H.B. 224, which kept in place several of H.B. 194's most controversial provisions, including the removal of in-person early voting for the weekend prior to the election.
In May 2012, Brown and U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) held an official hearing in Cleveland of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights to examine the impact of H.B. 194. In addition to Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (OH-11), witnesses included: David Arrendondo, Director of International Student Services at Lorain County Community College; Carrie L. Davis, Executive Director at the League of Women Voters of Ohio in Columbus; Dale Fellows, a Republican State Central Committeeman and Executive Committee Member of the Lake County Republican Party; Gregory T. Moore, Campaign Director at Fair Elections Ohio; and Daniel Tokaji, Professor of Law at the Moritz College of Law at the Ohio State University.
More than thirty states have new or pending changes to current voting laws. States seeking to change their laws have passed or proposed provisions that significantly reduce the number of early voting days, require voters to show restrictive forms of photo identification before voting, and make it harder for volunteer organizations to register new voters. Supporters of these laws argue that they will reduce the risk of voter fraud. The overwhelming evidence, however, indicates that voter fraud is virtually non-existent and that these new laws will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of elderly, disabled, minority, young, rural, and low-income Americans to exercise their right to vote.
Sen. Brown has also raised concerns over highly restrictive photo identification voting laws currently under consideration or already signed into law in several states across the country. In a letter sent to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Brown asked the agency to use its full powers as enacted in the Voting Rights Act to review these laws and their implementation.