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Fair Elections Ohio announcing its successful petition effort
Fair Elections Ohio, announcing its successful petition effort, now in question. (Fair Elections Ohio)

The Ohio House, dominated by Republicans, is trying to pull a fast one on Ohio voters, and still keep Democratic-leaning voters away from the polls in this critical election in a decisive state.

Last June, the legislature passed House Bill 194, to restrict early voting, prohibit counties from sending absentee ballot applications to registered voters, and eliminate the requirement for poll workers to help voters find their correct polling place, among other restrictions. In September of last year, Fair Elections Ohio succeeded in getting enough signatures to get a referendum on the new law on November's ballot, effectively nullifying the law for the 2012 election.

The Republican-dominated legislature didn't want its voter suppression work entirely undone, so it has now passed a repeal of the law to prevent voters from killing it entirely.

"By taking the action that we're proposing to take today, we discourage people in the future from taking advantage of the initiative and referendum right," Rep. Dennis Murray, a Democrat from Sandusky, said on the House floor. "This goes fundamentally to the question of who it is in this state that holds the power of government. I think that's the people of this state, and I think the action we're taking today violates the constitution." [...]

Democrats and voting rights advocates argued the legislation is not a "clean" repeal of HB 194 because it leaves in place a prohibition on in-person early voting the weekend before an election. The restriction will remain in effect because it was duplicated in a separate bill.

The Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted says the referendum won't be on the ballot because "there is no longer a question to place before the voters." But Fair Elections Ohio disputes this, because determinations of what goes on a ballot are not made by the Secretary of State unilaterally, but by the petition committee that organized the referendum.

This is an entirely unprecedented action, so it's unclear now whether Husted or Fair Elections Ohio has the law on their side, and if the referendum will be on the ballot in November. Also unclear is whether the in-person early voting will be available, since it's both subject to the referendum and was passed in a separate bill. These are determinations that are likely going to be settled by the courts.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Wed May 09, 2012 at 10:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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