People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF) today investigated concerns raised by activists that an 11th-hour purge of eligible voters in Ohio could result from mailings sent out by county election officials. While it appears that fears of a purge are unfounded, the incident does emphasize the need for continued voter education, and vigilance in voter advocacy and protection as the November elections loom.
Over the past few days, Internet commentators have raised concerns that certain voters in Ohio might be removed from the voter rolls if mailings sent to them by their county election officials are returned as undelivered. Given the Secretary of State’s history of supporting and engaging in voter suppression strategies, citizen vigilance is necessary and commendable. In this particular case, though, county election officials have confirmed to PFAWF that under Ohio law, even voters whose mailings are returned will be permitted to vote a regular ballot if they show the proper ID at the polls. Of course that’s if poll workers are properly trained.
Precisely to help avoid problems and to foster full participation, People For the American Way Foundation has prepared a brief mailing carefully explaining the Ohio voter ID rules and the proper forms of identification, which is being sent to many thousands of Ohio voters. The mailing can be found at http://media.pfaw.org/ep/OH_Flier.pdf .
“We are working to make sure that Ohio voters have the best information possible in order to cast a vote that counts this Election day,” said Ralph G. Neas, PFAWF president. ”The past two elections have shaken the confidence of the electorate in our system. We must do everything we can to restore voter confidence and bring them to the polls in overwhelming numbers.”
Neas noted that voters who have questions about reports of potential voting problems or who are otherwise concerned about suppression or intimidation tactics can contact the Election Protection Hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE, which is sponsored by People For the American Way Foundation, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Right Under Law and the NAACP. Callers will receive free legal assistance from volunteer lawyers trained in election law, and the coalition will investigate reports of intimidation and suppression to seek recourse.
Unfortunately, there have already been reports of blatant attempts at voter intimidation and suppression in advance of the election. For instance, in Orange County, California, a Republican candidate for the U.S. House has admitted that his campaign sent threatening letters to Hispanic registered voters seeking to intimidate them and suppress their votes. In August, People For the American Way Foundation published “The New Face of Jim Crow: Voter Suppression in America,” which documented the many ways – legislative, regulatory, and otherwise – that barriers are erected to the ballot box: http://www.pfaw.org/go/VoterSuppression .
People For the American Way Foundation’s advocacy affiliate, People For the American Way, had opposed passage of Ohio’s H.B. 3 because PFAW believed its provisions would complicate and discourage voting. And PFAW Foundation worked with allies to mount a successful legal challenge to overly burdensome voter registration regulations the Secretary of State’s office put in place as part of its plan to implement H.B. 3.