Voting Rights

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The right to vote has been called the “vital principle of self-government and individual liberty.” When you register to vote and participate in elections, you play a critical role in preserving our democracy.

Hamilton County Proposes Moving Early Voting to the Suburbs

Update: On 2/21/14, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted cast a tie-breaking vote in favor of allowing the deadlocked Hamilton County Board of Elections (BOE) …

Update: On 2/21/14, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted cast a tie-breaking vote in favor of allowing the deadlocked Hamilton County Board of Elections (BOE) to move their operations to suburban Mount Airy.

Husted’s vote allows the BOE to move early voting from its current downtown location, but leaves unsettled where exactly the new site should be.

Husted continues to urge the board to come to some kind of compromise on where to hold early in-person voting in Hamilton County and the ACLU of Ohio continues to push for an early voting site in downtown Cincinnati, where it will best serve all voters.

We still need your help!

Please take a moment to tell the Hamilton County BOE to put politics aside and do what is best for voters.

02.06.14

The Hamilton County Board of Elections is debating whether to move the county’s early voting center from its current location in downtown Cincinnati to the suburb of Mt. Airy, where few bus lines run.

What has been lost in the board’s hyper-partisan debates are the best interests of Hamilton County voters, many of whom are low-income, inner-city residents who do not own cars and rely instead on public transportation (or their own two feet) to get to the polls.

Here are some maps that illustrate the problem (click to enlarge):
Cincinnati by Neighborhood - SORTA Routes


Cincinnati by Neighborhoods - Percentage Below Poverty

Transplanting early voting 10 miles away from the central hub of downtown Cincinnati to a suburb with limited access to public transportation will dramatically reduce access to the polls for these voters.

Early voting should be centrally located, with plenty of access for public transportation. The current downtown location fulfills both of these major criteria.

Most importantly, the bi-partisan Hamilton County Board of Elections should be living up to its name by looking out for the best interest of all voters, regardless of their political persuasion.

The best way to do that is to keep early voting downtown.

Take a moment to tell the Hamilton County Board of Elections to keep early voting downtown. We’ve already prepared language to get you started.

Bit by bit, legislators are chipping away at our access to the polls

Update: 2/24/14

Despite calls from voting rights advocates, editorial boards and civil libertarians across the state to stop making it harder to vote, the Ohio General Assembly has passed S.B. 238 and Governor John Kasich has …

Update: 2/24/14

Despite calls from voting rights advocates, editorial boards and civil libertarians across the state to stop making it harder to vote, the Ohio General Assembly has passed S.B. 238 and Governor John Kasich has signed the bill into law.

Along with S.B. 238, Kasich signed S.B. 205, another controversial voting bill that makes it less likely voters will receive absentee ballots while making it easier for elections officials to reject those ballots if voters make a mistake.

The ACLU of Ohio will continue to fight these regressive voting bills and we will keep you informed of new opportunities for action as they become available.


Several bills are pending in the Ohio General Assembly that will reduce access to the polls. The fastest moving is Senate Bill 238, which will shave a week off of early voting and eliminate the brief window of time where voters can register and cast an early ballot on the same day.

It’s not likely to stop there. Soon legislators will be talking about even deeper cuts to early in-person voting limits, as well as absentee ballot restrictions, and stricter voter ID laws.

Ohio Legislature Creates Obstacles for Minor Party Ballot Access

On November 6, the Ohio General Assembly passed Senate Bill 193, and Governor Kasich immediately signed it into law. SB 193 establishes new regulations for the participation of minor political parties in Ohio elections.

SB 193 …

On November 6, the Ohio General Assembly passed Senate Bill 193, and Governor Kasich immediately signed it into law. SB 193 establishes new regulations for the participation of minor political parties in Ohio elections.

SB 193 will severely limit the ability of minor parties to participate in the political process. Under the new law, third parties now need to collect at least 500 signatures from at least half of the state’s congressional districts in order to gain recognition from the state. In some cases, candidates will need signatures from citizens who have not voted in primary elections for a different political party for the past two years, which is not easy in Ohio’s closed primary system. The law also prohibits minor parties from holding primaries, making it extremely difficult for them to establish statewide support. These are just a few examples of the many problematic regulations established by this law, which has already prompted a federal lawsuit.

This deeply flawed law takes the power away from voters to decide which parties and candidates deserve support and effectively regulates minor parties out of the political process. Read ACLU of Ohio testimony against SB 193, and for more information on this bill, visit our legislation page.

Participating in Elections

The Secretary of State oversees the election process in each of Ohio’s 88 counties, and registration is required to vote. Information about registering and voting is available at the …

The Secretary of State oversees the election process in each of Ohio’s 88 counties, and registration is required to vote. Information about registering and voting is available at the elections and voting page of the Ohio Secretary of State’s website.

Ohioans can also participate in elections by becoming poll workers, and high school seniors who are at least 17 years old can be excused from school for one day to work the polls. For more information go to our student poll worker page, or contact the local board of elections.

A Sneak Attack on Student Voting Rights

Updated 05.29.13: Thanks to the many Ohioans across the state who took action on this issue, the Ohio Senate Finance Committee has removed this amendment from HB 59.

In 2012 partisan politicians waged a full frontal assault on …

Updated 05.29.13: Thanks to the many Ohioans across the state who took action on this issue, the Ohio Senate Finance Committee has removed this amendment from HB 59.


In 2012 partisan politicians waged a full frontal assault on voting rights.

This year it’s a sneak attack.

An amendment has been added to the massive state budget bill (HB 59) designed to make it more difficult for students to vote in their college communities. This amendment would require public colleges and universities to charge the in-state tuition rate (as opposed to the higher out of state tuition rate) to any student issued proof of residency for voting purposes.

Supporters claim the amendment is aimed at lowering tuition. In reality, the provision is intended to suppress the vote.  By stripping away hundreds of millions of dollars in funding from schools that provide proof of residency to out-of-state students, schools will have little choice but to stop providing this documentation.  The result?  Students will have a harder time voting – even though they have every legal right to vote in their college communities.

This is no accident, it’s a political tactic. This amendment has passed the Ohio House and is now in the Senate.

Legislative Priority: Ensure fair and free elections

In the aftermath of the 2012 presidential election, the ACLU of Ohio received numerous reports of voter and poll worker confusion on Election Day. Common complaints included confusion over voter ID requirements and polling locations, and an overreliance on provisional …

In the aftermath of the 2012 presidential election, the ACLU of Ohio received numerous reports of voter and poll worker confusion on Election Day. Common complaints included confusion over voter ID requirements and polling locations, and an overreliance on provisional ballots.

As a non-profit, non-partisan organization, our goal is to ensure that every citizen is able to exercise his or her right to vote, free from unnecessary barriers and restrictions. We urge that any voting reform include:

  • Extended, uniform early in-person voting hours, to ensure that voters across the state have more access to vote.
  • Permanent funding to send absentee ballot applications to all registered voters during presidential and gubernatorial general elections.
  • Clear rules for casting and counting of provisional ballots.
  • Increased use of technology, such as online voter registration and electronic poll books.

Protect Your Vote

Protect Your Vote! Check out the ACLU of Ohio’s vote center here.
Have you been convicted of a crime? You still have the right to vote.

Protect Your Vote! Check out the ACLU of Ohio’s vote center here.
Have you been convicted of a crime? You still have the right to vote.

Voter ID Restrictions Would Limit Voter Rights

Updated 12.20.12: After voting rights advocates and many concerned citizens across the state took action, HB 159 failed in the Ohio General Assembly at the end of the 2011-2012 session.

Thanks …

Updated 12.20.12: After voting rights advocates and many concerned citizens across the state took action, HB 159 failed in the Ohio General Assembly at the end of the 2011-2012 session.


Thanks to the efforts of activists and advocacy groups, the Ohio General Assembly has not yet passed House Bill 159. However, the OGA will continue to debate the bill, which would be the most restrictive in the country. Under the new law, Ohioans could only vote with one of the following IDs:

  • Ohio driver’s license,
  • Ohio state ID card,
  • Military photo ID, or
  • U.S. Passport.

H.B. 159 could deny the right to vote to thousands who do not have the limited identification accepted and would disproportionately affect low-income, disabled, racial and ethnic minorities, college students, and elderly. The measure has even been opposed by Republican Secretary of State John Husted, who recognized that it is unnecessary and costly. Click here for one real life example.

HB 194: Repeal, Replace, or Both?

Updated 05.08.12: Ohio lawmakers repealed HB 194 on May 8, 2012.

In March 2012, Secretary of State Jon Husted began to advocate the repeal of the controversial HB 194, arguing …

Updated 05.08.12: Ohio lawmakers repealed HB 194 on May 8, 2012.


In March 2012, Secretary of State Jon Husted began to advocate the repeal of the controversial HB 194, arguing that it should be scrapped and reexamined after the November 2012 election with legislation that is more bipartisan. Theoretically, repealing HB 194 would render a voter referendum unnecessary, though repealing a law that is under voter referendum is constitutionally unprecedented.

Ohio Republicans have latched onto the repeal plan. Despite Husted’s advice to wait until after the election before exploring any new legislation, some legislators have suggested they might try to replace HB 194 with a new voter suppression bill before the November 2012 election. The ACLU of Ohio strongly opposes any additional changes to voting laws before the presidential election, except to repeal all voter suppression laws that were passed in 2011.

The Ohio General Assembly is currently negotiating the terms of a possible HB 194 repeal. However, some legislators do not want to restore early in-person voting in the three days leading up to the election. Early voting was wildly popular among many Ohioans in 2008, when African-American churches used it to mount “Souls to the Polls” campaigns bringing congregations to boards of elections to vote.

Congressional Hearing on HB 194

On Monday, May 7, 2012, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), held a congressional hearing at the Carl B. Stokes United States Court House in Cleveland. This hearing examined the impact of HB 194, which restricts early voting, eliminates the requirement …

On Monday, May 7, 2012, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), held a congressional hearing at the Carl B. Stokes United States Court House in Cleveland. This hearing examined the impact of HB 194, which restricts early voting, eliminates the requirement that poll workers direct voters to the proper precinct, and makes it harder to vote absentee. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined Durbin at the hearing and the ACLU offered testimony on the negative impact HB 194 would have on Ohio elections.

Click here to read our testimony.

Referendum on HB 194

In September 2011, the ACLU of Ohio joined voting rights advocates, state legislators, and labor unions to support a referendum on Ohio House Bill 194, which would severely limit early voting, prohibit poll workers from assisting voters completing forms, and …

In September 2011, the ACLU of Ohio joined voting rights advocates, state legislators, and labor unions to support a referendum on Ohio House Bill 194, which would severely limit early voting, prohibit poll workers from assisting voters completing forms, and make it more difficult for local boards of elections to promote early voting to all registered voters.

Secretary of State Husted certified the referendum on December 9, 2011. This means H.B. 194 will not be in effect through the November 2012 election, where voters will decide if it should be rejected.

Access to the ballot by minor parties is an important function of democracy. Read the August 2011 Columbus Dispatch article: Libertarian Party sues over minor party access limits in new law.

Ohio Legislature Limits Voting Access with Changes to Absentee and Early Voting

On June 29, 2011, the Ohio legislature passed House Bill 194, legislation which makes a variety of misguided changes to Ohio’s voting system. The short lines and uncomplicated voting process during 2008’s record voting turnout will be replaced …

On June 29, 2011, the Ohio legislature passed House Bill 194, legislation which makes a variety of misguided changes to Ohio’s voting system. The short lines and uncomplicated voting process during 2008’s record voting turnout will be replaced by long waits, confused voters, and a glut of provisional ballots. Provisions of the new legislation include:

  • Drastically cutting the timeframe for early in-person voting to 16 days from 35 days;
  • Preventing counties from mailing absentee ballot applications to residents; and
  • Eliminating the requirement for poll workers to help voters find their right precinct.

During a session on July 13, 2011, the Ohio General Assembly passed a bill that corrects one of H.B. 194’s flaws. The bill eliminates the requirement for voters to provide their full Social Security number in order to vote a provisional ballot. Unfortunately, the bill also eliminates online registration and the voter’s ability to present an ID at their local Board of Election before the polls close, if they didn’t have it while voting.

Read testimony in opposition to these measures here.

Litigation

Read about voting rights lawsuits filed by the ACLU in Ohio in 2006 and 2008.

Read about voting rights lawsuits filed by the ACLU in Ohio in 2006 and 2008.

The right to vote has been called the “vital principle of self-government and individual liberty.” When you register to vote and participate in elections, you play a critical role in preserving our democracy.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Provision of the Voting Rights Act

Since its passage in 1965, the Voting Rights Act has been a critical safeguard to ensuring equal access to the ballot and guaranteeing our most fundamental right as Americans. Section 5 of the Act requires jurisdictions …

Since its passage in 1965, the Voting Rights Act has been a critical safeguard to ensuring equal access to the ballot and guaranteeing our most fundamental right as Americans. Section 5 of the Act requires jurisdictions with significant histories of voter discrimination to “pre-clear,” or get federal approval from the Department of Justice, for any new voting practices or procedures.

In June 2013, in a huge blow to democracy, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the coverage formula used in Section 5. This is already threatening to undo decades of progress across the country for minority voting rights. However, the 5-4 decision does not strike down Section 5 itself, leaving it to Congress to devise a new method for determining which jurisdictions must obtain preclearance from the Department of Justice. The ACLU is working with Congress to devise a new formula that continues to protect the rights of minority voters.

Although we have made important gains in voting rights, discrimination at the polls persists and cannot be dismissed as a relic of the past. Many voters still face significant obstacles in registering to vote and casting ballots, and efforts are underway to enact even more restrictive voting policies in states across the country. The tactics may change, but the goal of disfranchisement remains the same.

Visit the national ACLU website for more information on the Voting Rights Act and current efforts to restore it.

National ACLU Resources – Voting Rights

Learn more about Voting Rights at the ACLU national website.

Learn more about Voting Rights at the ACLU national website.