Ohio Republican legislators are up to their voter suppression tricks again, trying to limit absentee ballot registrations and restricting voting hours ahead of the November 2014 elections. The Columbus Dispatch reported Friday that GOP Rep. Mike Dovilla, Chairman of the Ohio House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee, said the committee will vote on Senate Bill 205 and Senate Bill 238 as early as Tuesday. If passed out of Dovilla’s committee, it could be off to the full House for a floor debate on Wednesday.
• SB 205 would ban county clerks from mass mailing absentee ballot applications to all voters, holding that duty only for OH Secretary of State Jon Husted, who has proven in the past that he will restrict voting access almost every chance he gets.
• SB 238 would achieve one of Husted’s anti-voter policy agenda items by limiting early voting days, effectively eliminating Ohioans’ ability to register and vote on the same day anywhere in the state.
These legislative moves come just days after the news broke that Hamilton County officials might relocate Cincinnati’s largest early voting location to a new, much less accessible location. That decision met with considerable push-back from voting rights activists and the media, resulting in a deadlock vote from the Board of Elections. The final decision now also goes to Secretary Husted to decide, effectively putting the power to restrict access to early voting in Cincinnati’s largest city in his hands.
If you are from Ohio, call your Representative now and tell them to protect your early voting rights by voting ‘NO’ on SB 205 and SB 238. You can find your Representative’s contact information here: http://www.ohiohouse.gov/members/member-directory. Once you have talked to your Representative, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know what they said. We’ll keep tabs on the situation and update you on voter suppression efforts in Ohio – and across the country – on the PFAW blog.
On the same day that George Zimmerman appeared in a Florida court for allegedly pointing a shotgun at his girlfriend during a reported domestic dispute, “stand your ground” laws are reaching new levels of absurdity in Ohio. A state House committee approved sweeping gun legislation which would eliminate the duty to retreat if they are safely able to do so before using deadly force in self-defense. Critics have warned this could lead to a “Wild West” situation, encouraging a “shoot first, ask questions later” approach to self-defense. Given that the law already says the use of deadly force in self-defense is acceptable in one’s own home or car and if a safe retreat is not possible, this law seems designed not to improve safety but instead to further an extreme pro-gun agenda that staunchly refuses to accept anylaw restricting the use of weapons. For these legislators, and groups like the NRA and ALEC that support these types of bills, a person’s right to shoot someone they deem a threat, without even attempting to make a safe retreat, seems to be worth more than a potential increase in homicides.
The bill also relaxes other gun control regulations, including a reduction in the number of training hours needed to obtain a concealed handgun license from twelve to four hours. This would make it eight times easier to carry a concealed deadly weapon than to drive a car, which requires a total of 32 hours of training in Ohio. It also introduces “reciprocity” on concealed handgun licenses, requiring the state to recognize concealed handgun licenses from any state that recognizes those issued by Ohio. This is especially troubling given that the number of concealed carry licenses issued in Ohio is at a record high: in just the first nine months of 2013, more concealed carry permits were issued than during any calendar year since 2004, when authorities started issuing such permits.
Not content simply to pass a definitively right-wing budget, in recent weeks the extremist Republicans in control of Ohio’s legislature tacked on a slew of amendments to a substitute budget bill that read like a Radical Right Christmas wish list, including:
If you live in Ohio, please help STOP this budget bill by calling now and urging your state representative to OPPOSE Sub. H.B. No. 59. Click here to find your legislator.
People For the American Way’s 2012 Right Wing Watch In Focus report, “Predatory Privatization,” included a section on the pernicious private prison industry. The report documented that, for all the talk of efficiency and accountability among lawmakers pushing privatization, the evidence pointed to a different reality: private prisons often deliver worse service, at higher costs to the taxpayer, with little accountability. One reason: massive spending by prison corporations on lobbying and political contributions.
Today, Think Progress points to new evidence: a sordid tale of prison privatization in Ohio. It links to a timeline produced by the ACLU of Ohio that chronicles the abysmal record of the Lake Erie Correctional Institute in the 18 months since Ohio sold the prison to the Corrections Corporation of America.
In that short period, the prison flunked two inspections, with independent reports documenting “filthy, broken facilities, as well as much higher rates of crime and violence in and around the prison.”
What about accountability? Think Progress notes:
Despite Lake Erie’s multiple violations of state standards, Ohio has stubbornly maintained its infatuation with private prisons. The state plans to outsource prison food to Aramark, a private vendor already under investigation in Kentucky for multiple contract violations, including serving old food that had not been stored properly and overbilling the state.
Republican-dominated state legislatures are all too eager to ignore the private prison industry’s dismal record. CCA and other companies like GEO are paying well to maintain their massively profitable government contracts; the industry spent $45 million on lobbying in the past decade. CCA has done especially well for itself, rebounding from near bankruptcy in 2000 to rake in a net income of $162 million in 2011.
On Nov. 6, Americans turned out in massive numbers to reelect President Obama, take away seats from Republicans in the House and the Senate, and pass progressive ballot measures throughout the country. But it seems that Republicans in Washington and in states across the country just didn't get the hint. Despite all the talk of post-election "soul-searching," there doesn't appear to be any self-examination going on among those currently clinging to their seats in Congress and state legislatures.
Just look at Michigan. Just weeks after the state legislature's Republicans took a drubbing from voters, who cut their majority in the state House from 18 to 8 despite recent Republican gerrymandering, the state's GOP leadership went on a right-wing rampage.
First, they passed a package of so-called "right to work" laws that are meant to politically weaken unions and have the side effect of financially weakening the middle class. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder was against "right to work" before he was for it, thanks to some powerful arm-twisting from corporate front groups.
Then, they got to work on some extreme anti-choice measures. One tries to force abortion clinics out of business by regulating them into the ground. It also places unnecessary burdens on women, including requiring them to prove they weren't "coerced" into seeking an abortion; prohibiting them from consulting with their doctor via videoconference; and requiring them to sign a death certificate and hold a funeral for the aborted fetus (this requirement, at least, has just been removed from the bill). Yet another bill would let doctors refuse to provide or employers refuse to cover any procedures they find immoral. This one isn't just about abortion - it could allow employers to refuse their employees insurance coverage for contraception, or even blood transfusions. Sounds familiar? The Blunt Amendment in the U.S. Senate - wildly unpopular except among the Senate GOP - would have done the same thing.
Anybody who was paying the least bit of attention to this year's elections would have noticed that two of the things voters find most repugnant about today's GOP is its blind allegiance to big corporations and its enthusiasm for regulating women's health.
Apparently the Republican Party wasn't paying attention. Or is just too beholden to the interests of the Corporate and Christian Right to care.
What's happening in Michigan is just a microcosm of the whole. In Ohio, immediately after an election shaped in part by the GOP's toxic attacks on women's health, Republican legislators got to work trying to defund Planned Parenthood. And in Washington, DC, Republican leaders are approaching fiscal cliff negotiations with the sole goal of protecting George W. Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy.
This isn't what I'd call "soul-searching."
Twenty-six years ago this week, back in 1986, Antonin Scalia was confirmed to a lifetime seat on the United States Supreme Court, where he has since done great damage to the rights of ordinary Americans. Since Mitt Romney points to Scalia as the type of Justice he would nominate, a group of PFAW activists in Ohio took this week’s anniversary as an opportunity to reach out to voters and let them know what would be in store for them under a Romney Court.
Seth Bringman of People For’s Romney Court Campaign turned Romney’s dream into a reality; or more accurately, the nightmare that it would be for the American people.
Romney’s commitment to appoint justices like Antonin Scalia would have devastating consequences if Romney were elected president. Every law that the states and Congress pass can end up before Supreme Court; who sits on the bench has lasting importance not only for today, but for generations to come. In the words of President (and later Chief Justice) William Howard Taft, “Presidents come and go, but the Supreme Court goes on forever.”
Here are a few highlights of Scalia’s legacy (and thus also the legacy of the president, Ronald Reagan, who nominated him more than a quarter century ago):
▶ Scalia has said that Roe v. Wade does not make any sense and that a woman’s right to choose is not a liberty protected by the Constitution.
▶ Scalia says the Constitution doesn’t protect the privacy of two consenting adults in their own homes.
▶ Scalia held that corporations can spend unlimited money on elections (Citizens United).
▶ Scalia has always found some excuse to uphold discrimination against gay people, and has argued that states are free to pass laws singling out gay people for mistreatment just because legislators don’t like them.
▶ Scalia voted to allow a company to use the fine print of its consumer contracts, such as for cell phones, to immunize itself from being sued even by customers it purposely and illegally defrauded.
▶ Scalia voted to deny female employees of a large national company who were victims of systemic discrimination the right to join together and go to court to stand up for their rights.
▶ Scalia voted that a woman who was paid less than men at her company for the same work for 20 years could not file a discrimination suit against her employer because she failed to file her suit within 180 days of her first paycheck, even though she had no way of knowing at that time that she was being discriminated against.
While Ronald Reagan may be long gone from the White House, his nominees to the nation’s highest court are still imposing a far right agenda on the nation. Should Mitt Romney have the opportunity to mold the Court in his own image, they may still be there well into the 2040s. To find out more about Mitt Romney’s frightening vision for the Supreme Court, visit http://romneycourt.com/.