April 30, 2012

Durbin Announces Field Hearing on Ohio Voting Law

Field Hearing Will Be Subcommittee's Second Examining State Voting Laws

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - US Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, today announced a field hearing examining the impact of Ohio's new voting law, 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.  The hearing will be held on Monday, May 7th, at the Carl B. Stokes United States Court House in Cleveland, Ohio.  Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) will join Durbin at the hearing.

 

Ohio’s new law reduces the number of early voting days from 35 to 17, eliminates voting on the weekend before an election, removes the requirement that poll workers direct voters to their proper precinct and prohibits county boards of elections from mailing unsolicited absentee ballots.  HB 194 will be subject to a ballot repeal measure in November.  Witnesses will be announced at a later date.

 

“For more than half of the life of our Republic, a majority of Americans were not allowed to vote. Fortunately, we learned from these mistakes and expanded the franchise and reach of our democracy though six constitutional amendments,” Durbin said. “Worryingly, a spate of recently passed state voting laws seem designed to restrict voting by making it harder for millions of disabled, young, minority, rural, elderly, homeless, and low income Americans to vote. Protecting the right of every citizen to vote and ensuring that our elections are fair and transparent are not Democratic or Republican values, they are American values.”

 

We should encourage seniors, students, minorities, and working Americans to vote, rather than making it harder for them to do so,” said Brown, who served as Ohio’s Secretary of State for two terms. “But rather than protecting the right to vote – we have seen brazen attempts to undermine it. The march toward free and fair elections continues to be burdened with voter suppression and denial. Voting is a right enshrined in our Constitution – not a privilege bestowed by the few.  By helping eligible voters access the ballot, we uphold the integrity of our electoral system.”

 

Over 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.

 

The Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights held a hearing on these new state voting laws in September of last year. In January, the Subcommittee held their first-ever field hearing in Tampa, which examined Florida’s restrictive new voting law.  More information on those hearings can be found here and here.
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