COLUMBUS— State Representative Bride Rose Sweeney (D - Cleveland) released the below statement in response to a federal judge’s dismissal of the second ballot drop box lawsuit.


 


Said Rep. Sweeney:


“Today was a beautiful day for voting. Thousands came out across the state to vote early. And a federal Court just issued a decision that makes absentee voting by mail easier for my constituents and everyone in the Cleveland area. The judge noted that the Secretary of State’s directive, issued yesterday, allows for the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections to proceed with its plan to staff satellite ballot collection at six libraries in the county. The judge also signaled that voting rights advocates may refile their lawsuit if there are any more shenanigans from the Secretary of State related to ballot collection sites.”


 


The judge wrote:


“Yesterday, October 5, the Secretary issued Directive 2020-22. In his latest Directive, the Secretary authorized any board to deploy its staff to receive ballots at sites other than the board office. This means that the Cuyahoga County board may implement its intended plan to receive ballots at six public libraries, and that any other board in Ohio that votes to do so may deploy its staff to receive ballots off-site, so long as the board complies with the procedures set forth in Section II of Directive 2020-22.”


Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s directive can be found here.


 

 
 
  

COLUMBUS— State Representative Bride Rose Sweeney (D - Cleveland) released the below statement in response to Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s just-released directive limiting boards of elections to having drop boxes only at their Board of Elections sites and not throughout the county. Rep. Sweeney is watching to see what happens today in a federal court on the drop box and ballot collection issue. 


“Secretary LaRose continues to draw out the drama as he avoids installing ballot drop boxes as he said he would if a court gave him the green light. This new directive from his office will do little to alleviate congestion and confusion at the single drop-off sites in counties with large populations. The city of Cleveland and our entire county deserve better. Unfortunately, it looks like the secretary is performing for his national GOP bosses and not with Ohioans’ best interests in mind.”


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Sweeney Issues Statement On Ohio Federal Court Weekend Order On Drop Boxes
Lawmaker derides national GOP plan aimed at reducing voting access
October 05, 2020
 
 

COLUMBUS— State Representative Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) responded to a federal court’s Saturday order requiring the Ohio Secretary of State  to explain himself by noon today on why he has not allowed Cuyahoga County’s Board of Elections to move forward with its bipartisan unanimous plan to offer ballot drop off services at six library locations.


A state appeals court late on Friday ruled that the law allows the secretary to install more drop boxes if he chooses, but the court declined to require him to do so. Also last week, the governor of Texas copied Ohio and ordered all drop box sites closed except for one in each county.


Said Rep. Sweeney:


“I am sad to see the residents of major American cities – like my hometown of Cleveland and now Houston and Dallas – used as pawns in a national GOP plan to cut off voting access. First, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose limited drop boxes to one per county and ordered Cuyahoga County to halt its unanimous bipartisan plan to accept ballots at six satellite locations. Now, the Texas GOP is following his lead and closing satellite ballot drop-off sites. Thankfully, a federal court is demanding answers here in Ohio. I hope Texans, like Ohioans, will make their voices heard and vote no matter what!”


Representative Bride Rose Sweeney is a member of the House Democratic Caucus’ Elections Working Group assembled by Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) at the onset of the pandemic to deal with its impact on voters and voting rights. Rep. Sweeney is the youngest elected Democrat in the Ohio House and the first woman to represent her district in the chamber.


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COLUMBUS – House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today issued a statement following a tweet from President Donald Trump that he and the First Lady have tested positive for COVID-19. Leader Sykes attended the presidential debate in Cleveland on Tuesday evening and was in the same room as the President and his team, including Hope Hicks. Many in the President’s entourage were not wearing masks.


“Americans woke this morning to this news of which the ripple effects are yet to be seen. This is a very somber moment for our country in a year of somber moments.


The President’s diagnosis poses a risk for not only our national security, our economic stability but also our upcoming election. I wish the President, First Lady and his team a speedy recovery and I encourage my fellow Americans to do the same. We all need to recognize the severity of this virus and encourage mask-wearing and social distancing; we all need to follow the guidelines and I am relieved to hear that the President, who has refused to follow so many of the guidelines, now plans to quarantine.


Sitting in the debate hall on Tuesday, I was concerned with so many in the President’s entourage who refused to wear masks, despite urging from Cleveland Clinic physicians. I am frustrated today as I worry now about my own health and the health of so many others who were present that evening like journalists, support staff, Cleveland Clinic professionals, and many others who could have potentially been exposed.


This didn’t have to happen. If more would follow the guidelines, this wouldn’t continue to happen.”


Leader Sykes is self-isolating at this time and will get tested as she awaits more formal and official guidance from the proper health authorities. She was tested on Tuesday, as a requirement of debate organizers, and received negative results that afternoon.


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Democratic Leadership Asks Speaker To Assure Ohioans That Their Votes Will Decide State's Winner In Presidential Election
Ask Cupp to publicly denounce reported attempts to have the legislature overrule voters for Electoral College selection
September 29, 2020
 
 

COLUMBUS- Today, Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron), Assistant Minority Leader Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus), Minority Whip Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo), and Assistant Minority Whip Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester) sent a letter* to Speaker of the House Bob Cupp (R-Lima), asking him to assure Ohioans that their votes will be the final determinant of which candidate Ohio’s 18 electoral college votes will be allocated to, and that the legislature will not intervene to overturn the will of the voters.


“This should not be a Republican or Democratic issue, this is a question of protecting the voices of Ohioans and their choice for President,” they write. “It is unfortunate that we need to be having this discussion at all, but in these uncertain times, Ohioans deserve certainty from their Speaker in denouncing this fundamentally undemocratic plan, and committing to respecting the popular will of Ohioans expressed at the ballot box.”


Their letter comes as it has been publicly reported that the President’s reelection campaign has been planning on asking GOP-led legislatures in swing states to overturn their state’s popular vote and assign pro-Trump electors to the Electoral College regardless of the outcome of that state’s popular vote. 


*Full text of the letter can be found below:


 


September 29, 2020


 


Speaker Bob Cupp


77 South High Street


14th Floor, Vern Riffe Center


Columbus, OH 43215


 


Dear Speaker Cupp,


            We write to you today on the behalf of the Ohio House Democratic Caucus and the people of Ohio in asking for your commitment that the Ohio House will respect the will of the voters and assign electors to the Electoral College that represent the winner of our state’s popular vote. As we are sure you would agree, regardless of who ends up winning the presidential election in our state, the people’s voices should have the final say in allocating our state’s eighteen Electoral College votes.


On top of a raging pandemic, a looming economic recession, and record unemployment, our constituents should not have to worry about the threat of their votes being cast aside in a partisan game. Unfortunately, the recent news from the White House has incited fear and confusion in our constituents. Our members have been hearing directly from Ohioans who are asking us to give them certainty that their votes will count and that they will decide which candidate for president receives Ohio’s electors. We owe it to them to do so.  


President Trump has refused to commit to the peaceful transition of power should he lose the presidential election. His campaign has reportedly set up a contingency plan to subvert the will of the voters and have the legislature assign pro-Trump electors regardless of the outcome of the vote. We believe that it is important for you to go on the record publicly and commit to respecting the votes of Ohioans when choosing electors, regardless of who wins our state. Further, we would ask that you clarify whether or not you have been approached by the campaign about this contingency plan to have the legislature back the President should former Vice President Biden win our state.


This should not be a Republican or Democratic issue, this is a question of protecting the voices of Ohioans and their choice for President.  It is unfortunate that we need to be having this discussion at all, but in these uncertain times, Ohioans deserve certainty from their Speaker in denouncing this fundamentally undemocratic plan, and committing to respecting the popular will of Ohioans expressed at the ballot box.


We look forward to your response.


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COLUMBUS – House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) and House Democrats Monday announced the approval of funds by the Controlling Board to further aid the state’s response to the health and economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding was also approved for voter education efforts and to support women-owned and veteran friendly businesses.


“We’ve heard from countless constituents in need of help with their unemployment claims since the pandemic began. Getting these funds to the Department of Jobs and Family Services is a critical step towards helping ease the economic burden felt by thousands of working Ohioans,” said Leader Sykes (D-Akron).


The Controlling Board on Monday voted to approve the following funding items:



  • $81.5 million of federal CARES Act funds to the Ohio Department of Health to expand the state’s COVID-19 testing capabilities;

  • $45 million to the Ohio Dept. of Job and Family Services for the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act to promote job creation and $141.6 million to supplement the state’s unemployment program;

  • $31 million to the Departments of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Higher Education, and Education to address the behavioral health impacts of COCID-19;

  • $15.2 million in relief payments for Adult Day Care and Senior Centers;

  • $10 million direct loan to reopen the East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry, which will provide critical medical care and create an estimated 300 jobs;

  • $1.1 million to the Secretary of State for the Citizens Education Fund to promote election information to the public;

  • $120,000 to upgrade existing employment systems to accommodate women-owned and veteran-friendly businesses


“There continues to be a rural healthcare crisis in Ohio and around the nation.  The reopening of East Ohio Regional Hospital provides critical medical care and jobs to our part of the state” said Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), who is a member of the Controlling Board.


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COLUMBUS— State Representative Bride Rose Sweeney (D - Cleveland) announced the discovery of a major flaw in the Secretary of State’s Online Voter Registration system. News reports last week of Ohio college students facing obstacles led her to examine the site. Student addresses are being rejected and the website misleads students into believing they’ve registered to vote when they click “Submit Voter Registration” when, in fact, they often must submit a paper form.


Rep. Sweeney sent a letter to Secretary of State Frank LaRose today seeking immediate action and addressing other inaccuracies on the Secretary’s website that could mislead college students about their clear right to vote in their campus communities and how to do so.  


“There is one week left to register to vote in the November 3rd election and, with new problems being exposed, every Ohio college student should double-check their voter registration. Our country’s election systems are built without the needs of college students in mind. It is by design and it is shameful.


When Ohio passed the law to create online voter registration, Democrats warned that the bill, sponsored by then-Senator LaRose, would be a major problem for college students. People are being turned away because our online system is stricter than our paper voter registration system. That’s backwards.”


Online voter registration was first proposed and passed by House Democrats in 2009. It did not become law until 2017 with LaRose-sponsored SB 63. Democrats’ amendments to remove the requirement of two forms of ID were rejected amid Democratic warnings that Ohioans would have problems with the system.


 


See the letter below:


 


Dear Secretary LaRose,


With one week left before voter registration closes, Ohio’s college students need answers now. Two recent news reports have exposed problems that Ohio college students are having with your online voter registration website. All of the students at my alma mater, John Carroll University, are learning remotely and have questions about how to register and vote. Your website urgently needs to be updated to provide better, accurate information.


The news reports indicated that your system may not be accepting college addresses, like dorms. In my own attempts to use the system, I was alarmed to find that if I entered any information that does not match my driver’s license, I should have been directed to a paper registration form, but instead I was allowed to complete the online process and directed to click the “Submit Voter Registration” button. These kinds of instructions would clearly make someone think they’ve submitted their registration. How many people clicked the “Submit Voter Registration” button believing they were completing their registration and then did not send in a paper form because of the confusion? This must be fixed immediately.


Your online voter registration system does not make clear to potential voters that they can register even if they do not have a driver’s license. The website is confusing in its offering of the paper registration form to individuals. Anyone can register with a paper form but the site says to use the paper form for updates only. This needs to be very clear and the website needs to be cleaned up now.


Your website also discourages college students from voting in their campus community and does not provide any clarity to them about registering in their college community and voting in their college community. It contains no helpful information for college students who might be dealing with unprecedented COVID-19 protocols and restrictions that require them to do remote learning and may be causing them to be temporarily away from their campus community. Students do not lose their Ohio residence when they are temporarily away. But your website does not provide any help to these students as they try to navigate registering and voting.


Your website also leads people to believe that there is one voter ID requirement for all methods of voting. It needs to inform people that they can vote early in person by simply using an ID number like the last four digits of their Social Security number.


College students are unique voters because they are new to the process and most students move at least once per year and often twice per year. Add to that the particular circumstances of 2020 where many college students are temporarily away from their campus residence as they stay with parents, friends, or other family because of COVID-19 restrictions.


Mr. Secretary, non-partisan groups asked you to improve your website months ago. Now we are one week away from the close of voter registration and you are presenting inaccurate information to hundreds of thousands of Ohio students. Please update your online voter registration webpage immediately and expand your College Voting webpage with clear, helpful, accurate information. And please make sure every county Board of Elections is also providing accurate information. We need to make voting easy and convenient for voters and that includes our college students who are new to this.


Thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent matter.


Sincerely,


Bride Rose Sweeney


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COLUMBUS— State Representative Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) responded today to national news outlet ProPublica’s revelations that the office of Secretary of State Frank LaRose sought direction from notorious national vote suppressor Hans von Spakovsky before issuing an order banning more than one drop box per county.


There is a hearing today at 3 p.m. in the 10th District Court of Appeals on the drop box issue. Rep. Hicks-Hudson was an affiant in the lawsuit challenges the LaRose/von Spakovsky ban. She affirmed that the Secretary of State told her he would allow more drop boxes if he had a court order supporting the action. Instead, when the court found his ban of multiple drop boxes unreasonable, LaRose appealed the court’s order .


“The Secretary of State was elected to deliver fair elections to all Ohioans and behave in a nonpartisan manner,” Rep. Hicks-Hudson said. “While he holds public Task Force meetings and press conferences and claims to wear ‘the referee’s jersey,’ he’s been secretly soliciting advice from Hans von Spakovsky, a man regarded by voting rights experts as the “country’s worst vote suppressor."


A quick look at Mr. von Spakovsky’s record reveals him to be an intense partisan who has viciously attacked voting rights and fought against expanding the franchise throughout his career. The Secretary of State claims to be transparent but has hidden from Ohioans who he is really taking orders from. Hopefully, the court will see through this deceit and uphold Ohioans' right to a fair and accessible election.”


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Republicans Use House Rules To Hide From Dem Efforts To Repeal HB 6
House Dems say a variety of methods are being used by the Majority to circumvent the traditional legislative process
September 23, 2020
 
 

COLUMBUS – House Democrats areonce again pulling back the curtain on the legislative tricks being used by House Republicans to circumvent the democratic process and prevent the repeal of the tainted House Bill (HB) 6 – the bill at the center of the largest bribery scandal in Ohio’s history and allegedly orchestrated by former Republican Speaker of the House Larry Householder.


Today, House Republicans ensured that no bills were brought to the floor thereby blocking floor amendments and votes. All legislative business was brought before the body in the form of conference reports. Conference reports can be brought up for consideration directly to the House floor, unlike bills and resolutions for third consideration which are required to be placed on the House calendar by the Rules and Reference Committee. Similarly, yesterday, the Finance Committee met for an “informal hearing” rather than an official meeting where Democrats were not permitted to offer amendments to a bill that would shortchange Ohio’s hardest hit COVID-19 areas of millions in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds.


“It is remarkable to watch the Majority Party twist themselves into knots as they find ever more creative ways to avoid our amendments to repeal House Bill 6,” Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) said. “To the everyday Ohioan, it could seem like Republicans are actually calling us back to work and doing something. But the only thing it seems they are doing is protecting their positions at the expense of tax payers. 


Ohioans deserve a legislature that acts with integrity, conducting its business transparently and democratically, not hiding behind obscure Rules that silence discussion. Republicans need to stop these tricks and listen to the majority of Ohioans who want the legislature to tackle the issues most important to them.”


Earlier today, Attorney General David Yost filed a complaint in Franklin County Common Pleas Court that would prevent FirstEnergy and its successor-organizations from benefiting from the increased rates in House Bill (HB) 6 and prohibit the defendants in the case, including former Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder (who was present during House session today and voting on legislation), from holding an elected office or lobbying for eight years. Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus), Ranking Member of the Select Committee on Energy Policy & Oversight said:


“I hope this isn’t a distraction to give Republican leadership cover as they continue to stand in the way of a repeal of House Bill 6. We need to show that Ohio is not for sale... We need to Repeal HB 6 now!”


Right now, 80 percent of voters statewide want to repeal House Bill 6, and 58 of 99 House members have signed on to cosponsor bills that would repeal House Bill 6.House Bill 6 was heard six times in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year, and over 300 testimonies were submitted during that process.


House Democrats have put forth multiple efforts to quickly repeal HB 6 in order to help restore the public’s trust in the legislature, and have called the creation of the Select Committee on Energy Policy & Oversight an unnecessary stall tactic by House Republicans. Yesterday, Rep. Leland, Ranking Member of the Select Committee, called the recent obstruction efforts from Statehouse Republicans an attempt to run out the clock.


On Aug. 11, House Democratic leadership, including Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron), Assistant Minority Leader Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus), Minority Whip Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) and Assistant Whip Rep. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester) filed a protest of the passage of House Bill 6 due to the serious allegations of bribery and pay-to-pay politics that were involved in the deliberations and passage of the bill.


On Aug. 28, Democrats announced they would file a discharge petition to bring bipartisan legislation to repeal HB 6 to the floor for a vote during session on Sept. 1.  House Republicans aggressively worked to thwart the effort by requiring that signatures be done in person and not electronically like all other legislation in an attempt to keep the bill from being brought to the floor in a timely manner. On August 31st, Speaker Cupp created the Select Committee on Energy Policy & Oversight to further study House Bill 6, even though it was studied extensively last year. 


Republican attempts to block the repeal of HB 6 came to a head on Sept. 1 when Speaker Robert Cupp (R-Lima) and House Republicans abruptly ended House session as Democrats readied to offer several amendments to repeal HB 6 on the floor. The session ended abruptly before making it even halfway through the scheduled calendar—an unprecedented move intended to block Democratic efforts to repeal HB 6.


On September 10th, during the first meeting of the Select Committee, Republicans voted to kill a motion to vote House Bill 746 out of committee. On September 16th, during the second meeting of the Select Committee, Chairman Hoops ruled a motion to move House Bill 746 out of committee out of order and adjourned the meeting. And earlier today, Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) made a third attempt to discharge the Republican’s repeal bill from committee and was again gaveled down by the chair.


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COLUMBUS – State Representatives David Leland (D-Columbus) and Jeffrey Crossman (D-Parma) issued statements today in response to Ohio Attorney General David Yost filing a complaint in Franklin County Common Pleas Court that would prevent FirstEnergy and its successor-organizations from benefiting from the increased rates in House Bill (HB) 6 and prohibit the defendants in the case, including former Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder, from holding an elected office or lobbying for eight years.


Representative David Leland (D-Columbus), Ranking Member of the House Select Committee on Energy Policy & Oversight:


“I hope this isn’t a distraction to give Republican leadership cover as they continue to stand in the way of a repeal of House Bill 6.  


This complaint could keep the ill-gotten gains generated from the largest bribery scandal in Ohio history from flowing to FirstEnergy. But the people of Ohio still have to pay $1.3 billion as a result of this corrupt legislation, and this complaint does nothing to prevent that money from being taken out of Ohioans’ pockets.


This complaint does nothing to get Ohioans their money back, and it does nothing to bring back the 100,000-plus green energy jobs House Bill 6 kills. It does nothing to stop the $444 million bailout of two dirty coal plants (one in Indiana). The fact remains that Republican leadership in the legislature is the only thing standing in the way of a full and immediate repeal of House Bill 6.


We need to show that Ohio is not for sale... We need to Repeal HB 6 now!”


Representative Jeffrey Crossman (D-Parma), in response to AG Yost seeking to prohibit Larry Householder from holding an elected office for eight years:


“I made a motion to expel Larry Householder from the Ohio House back in July after we unanimously agreed to remove him as Speaker, but my Republican colleagues voted to keep him in his seat. Since they refuse to remove him and have even allowed Householder himself to come back and vote to preserve the very bill that led to his federal indictment, it is reassuring to see the Attorney General at least seeking an injunction to right this wrong.


But it never should have gotten to this point. He should have been removed back in July. House Republicans could remove him today, but they won’t.”


Rep. Crossman and Rep. Gil Blair (D-Weatherfield) have introduced a bill that would require state lawmakers to reimburse the state for any compensation received following a conviction for public corruption felonies. The bill would also prohibit anyone elected while under felony indictment for public corruption from taking their seat in the General Assembly. That bill has been assigned to the State and Local Government committee where it is yet to have a single hearing.


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Democrats Lament Another Broken Promise By LaRose

 

State Reps. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) and Catherine D. Ingram (D-Cincinnati) responded to the state Controlling Board refusing to hear Secretary LaRose’s late request for additional authority to pay return postage for absentee ballots in its meeting yesterday. LaRose said he will come back to the Board in mid-September, but absentee ballot applications are set to be mailed to 7.8 Million Ohio voters before that – around Labor Day – without return postage. The members have been urging LaRose for months to use existing authority of his office to pay return postage for both applications and ballots.



 
 

Democrats Urge LaRose To Keep His Word To Ohio Voters

 

State Reps. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) and Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) responded to Secretary LaRose’s announcement that he is requesting additional permission from the state Controlling Board to pay return postage for voting materials. The deadline for submitting such requests was Monday, Aug. 17 for the Board’s Aug. 24 meeting. No request from LaRose’s office appears yet on the Controlling Board’s website. It is unclear whether the late request will be added to the meeting agenda or what specifically is being requested.  



 
 

Democrats Unite To Tell LaRose: Do Your Job

 

The House Democratic Caucus today sent a letter to Secretary of State Frank LaRose addressing recent major developments in Ohio’s elections. Last week, the country watched in horror as Post Office mailboxes and processing machinery were dismantled and removed across the country and in Ohio.



 
 

OLBC President Rep. Stephanie Howse Urges Action On Pay Equity On Black Women's Equal Pay Day

 

Ohio Legislative Black Caucus President Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) today urged action on the Ohio Equal Pay Act, legislation alongside Rep. Randi Clites (D-Ravenna) that would recognize the full value and potential of Ohio’s working women.