Events for December 2022

Advocacy update October 25, 2022

Advocacy update October 25, 2022 150 150 Episcopalians in Connection
Ohio Voter Rights Coalition Training for Election Day Poll Monitors begins Oct. 27

Register here to attend Thursday online from 6-7 pm. The Coalition says you can receive a link starting Oct. 28 to view the training on demand. Early poll monitoring starts Saturday, Oct. 29.  You can sign up and view the recorded training here.

Bail on the ballot

State Issue 1 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would require judges to consider public safety when setting cash bail. Judges already have the authority to keep accused people in detention if they pose a public danger. A broad coalition of advocates including the Ohio Council of Churches and Hunger Network in Ohio see bail as disproportionately burdening poor people who can’t afford to buy their way out of detention. A bipartisan bill, HB 315 relieves this burden on the poor while preserving judges’ right to deny pretrial release to protect public safety.

Read more below on the background of Issue 1 and HB 315. You can also read pros and cons of the two state issues in the Ohio League of Women Voters’ guide by going to www.vote411.org, putting in your address, and clicking on “Go to my races.” Scroll down to the two state issues.

Background on Issue 1 and Bail Reform

On May 25, both houses of the Ohio Legislature passed a resolution supporting a constitutional amendment that would require Ohio judges to “use factors such as public safety, including the seriousness of the offense, and a person’s criminal record” when setting amounts and conditions of bail. Votes in both chambers exceeded the supermajority required to put an amendment on the ballot without the Governor’s signature. As in the redistricting battle, Republicans in the Ohio Legislature were attacking the Ohio Supreme Court, which upheld a lower court decision that public safety cannot be considered in setting the level of cash bail, the purpose of which is to induce a defendant to return for trial. Judges have other remedies for protecting public safety, including pre-trial detention.

Major faith-based groups support HB 315, a bipartisan bill that was introduced in 2021 by Rep. David Leland (D Columbus) and Brett Hillyer (R Urichsville) to reinforce the tools judges have to protect public safety while reducing the disproportionate financial burden which bail poses to nonviolent offenders who are poor.  Rep. Bill Seitz (R. Cincinnati), who’s helped pass other major criminal justice reforms, said he was optimistic for SB 315 and that it would work well with the constitutional amendment.

Republicans introduced the constitutional amendment resolution in March in reaction to a January decision by the Ohio Supreme Court in DuBose v. McGuffey, and “pushed them through hearings while the bipartisan effort remains in committee,” the Springfield News-Sun reported May 31. House Bill 315 “would set a $200 “floor” for bail, and set the maximum at 25% of someone’s monthly income, after deduction of some costs such as education and work expenses, Leland said.  It would also greatly expand rules for pretrial detention, adding more than 50 crimes to the list of those for which a judge would need to determine the risk releasing a prisoner would pose to others, he said.” Organizations testifying in support of these reforms span the political spectrum, from the Buckeye Institute to the ACLU Ohio. Of the 21 people testifying against the reform, 13 represent the bail bond industry, which stands to lose a lot of money if it passes.

Ohio Issue 2 would restrict voting to citizens 18 and older

This proposed constitutional amendment would prohibit local governments from allowing 17-year olds to vote in primaries in elections for which they would be 18 by election day. It would also prohibit local governments from allowing non-citizen legal residents of the United States from voting in local elections, even though they pay taxes. Issue 2 is opposed by the Ohio Council of Churches and Hunger Network in Ohio, both faith-based statewide groups. As above, you can read pros and cons of this proposal in the League of Women Voters Ohio’s 2022 election guide.

Bill proposes $600 million for school facilities in Appalachian Ohio

State Reps Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) and Shane Wilkin (R-Hillsboro) have introduced a bill to fund an Accelerated Appalachian School Building Assistance program that would improve equity between the state’s urban and rural districts. The legislature passed a similar program for urban districts in 2000.  I’ll keep tracking this bill, which has not yet received a number as of Oct. 25. I’m trying to find out what funding source is proposed (see article below on the ARPA Tracker).

Track how Ohio is allocating ARPA funds

Advocates for Ohio’s Future and the Ohio Poverty Law Center have created the online Ohio ARPA Tracker to document how $5.4 billion in American Rescue Plan funds are being used across our state. The largest share went to replenish the state’s Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund, but local governments have used funds for a wide array of beneficial projects including expanding broadband, water and sewage systems, public health, and housing and workforce development. A major share has gone to the state’s Appalachian region. More than $2 billion remains to be distributed, and the tool will help you identify opportunities for advocacy.

Incumbents on Ohio Redistricting Commission up for re-election

An Oct. 21 article in the Ohio Capitol Journal reviews the roles played in the ongoing redistricting battle by members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission who are running for re-election in statewide or local district races. These include Gov. Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, and Auditor Keith Faber. State Senator Rob McColley and State Rep. Jeff LaRe, both Republicans, are running unopposed, as is State Rep. Alison Russo, one of only two Democrats on the commission.

Meanwhile, Ohio’s Senate President Matt Huffman and House Speaker Bob Cupp, who pushed through each of the legislative maps ruled unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court, have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that those rulings were unconstitutional and that the Ohio Supreme Court lacked jurisdiction even though Ohio voters specifically granted it in two constitutional amendments. In an Oct. 19 column for WVXU, Howard Wilkinson presented the 2019 Rucho opinion as a reason the Supreme Court could block the “independent state legislature theory” Huffman and Cupp cite as the basis for their claim.

“But the Ohio Statehouse power duo — both from little ol’ Lima, Ohio — may not have reckoned on a 2019 U.S. Supreme Court case called Rucho v. Common Cause, a landmark case out of Florida involving partisan gerrymandering. A 5-4 majority in Rucho decided that while gerrymandering might be ‘inconsistent with democratic principles’ the justices said federal courts may not review such cases.

“The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, an appointee of President George W. Bush, said that while there is no ‘fair districts’ amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ‘provisions in state statutes and state constitutions can provide standards and guidance for state courts to apply.’ Which is exactly what the Ohio Supreme Court, armed with a state constitutional amendment, has been doing.

“Four other justices signed on to this ruling, all from the conservative wing of the court and appointed by Republican presidents: Clarence Thomas (Bush 41), Samuel Alito (Bush 43), Neil Gorsuch (Trump) and Brett Kavanaugh (Trump).Do the two guys from Lima really expect this U.S. Supreme Court to do a complete U-turn and reverse its own decision from only three years ago?”

Early voting is strong in Ohio

The Dayton Daily News reported robust turnout for early voting in this year’s midterm election. The graphic from the Ohio Secretary of State’s office compares 2018 and 2022 turnout as of three weeks before the election.

Advocacy briefings are compiled by Ariel Miller, a longtime community advocate and member of Ascension & Holy Trinity, Wyoming. Connect with her at arielmillerwriter@gmail.com