Now that the future of a controversial state election law is proving uncertain, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has wasted no time in ensuring that one of the more heinous provisions of HB 194 will be implemented anyway in time for this year’s election. The bill, which was enacted by the Governor and scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 30, includes a number of disenfranchising measures, among them, a prohibition against mailing unsolicited absentee-ballot provisions to voters. However, implementation has been endangered, as state advocates mobilize to gather more than 231,000 valid signatures to place a repeal of the legislation on next year’s ballot. If successful, the law would be suspended until the public’s final decision.
Several right-wing lawmakers utilized the weak economy to pursue damaging and radical proposals in legislative sessions this year. Some of the more egregious measures have included efforts to privatize functions of state government, including libraries, youth shelters, group homes, ambulance services, and transit networks. The pursuit of privatization is often rooted in misleading ideology that mythologizes private sector efficiency rather than demonstrable results of savings or quality. In fact, several privatization schemes have compromised service delivery, increased costs and fees for taxpayers, and severely reduced public accountability.
Last weekend, members of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, local clergy and labor leaders were joined by Wisconsin State Senator Lena Taylor to protest attacks on workers’ rights in Ohio similar to those that have sprung up in numerous states this year. The town-hall style gathering in Cleveland focused on the recent passage of Senate Bill 5, which stripped collective bargaining rights for public sector employees in Ohio. Speaking to the breadth of attacks on workers’ across the country, Taylor told those in attendance, “This is not a Wisconsin fight. This is not an Ohio fight. This is a fight for everybody.”
As voter ID legislation continues to be rammed through state legislatures across the country, conservatives are celebrating passage of these bills, intended to suppress turnout among traditionally progressive constituencies, as a victory. However, no one is actually winning – not minority, low-income, and other historically disenfranchised voters who will be disproportionately affected by the new laws, and certainly not already-squeezed state budgets forced to find millions of dollars to make these bills a reality