FitzGerald Demands Explanation from Husted for Failure to Serve All Ohioans

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New report from Salon indicates Secretary of State made minimal effort to inform minorities of early voting cuts

CLEVELAND – Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald today called on Secretary of State Jon Husted to explain a new report that suggests his administration gave priority to political allies and comparably little regard for minority constituents while deciding to cut early voting days in Ohio for the 2014 general election.

“It is shocking to read the latest allegations leveled against state Republicans and their efforts to cut back early voting opportunities – an effort that will keep working families from voting this November,” said FitzGerald. “The emails published yesterday demonstrate a clear lack of regard for the impact these unnecessary changes will have on urban and minority voters, and Secretary Husted owes our state an explanation.”

A report published Monday on raises new questions regarding Republican efforts to restrict early, mail, and provisional voting opportunities in Ohio. After reviewing emails obtained from Husted’s office, Salon found that the Secretary of State’s senior staff seemed to show a “strong preference for providing information to Republican-aligned groups, and even specifically addresses the possibility of excluding non-Republican legislators.”

In addition, the report finds that when considering organizations to contact regarding the new changes, Husted’s staff went “into impressive detail on Republican-aligned organizations — Second Amendment groups, Right to Life, Tea Party, Conservative Groups, hunters, YR [Young Republicans], the Republican-aligned National Federation of Independent Business, and the Ohio Voter Integrity Project (a voter-fraud focused group that has been accused of harassing voters).” While numerous critics have raised concerns that the state’s early voting cuts would disproportionately impact minority voters, Husted’s staff “simply lists ‘minority groups’ with apparently just one specific example” for their proposed outreach strategy.

“This latest news raises troubling concerns about the extent of the State’s efforts to serve every Ohio voter,” added Cuyahoga County Law Director Majeed G. Makhlouf. “Elections officials should use their office to ensure that all Ohioans are able to exercise their constitutional right to vote and not to erect barriers in the way of citizens’ ability to vote.”

Following Republican efforts to restrict absentee voting earlier this year, FitzGerald signed new legislation into law permitting Cuyahoga County to send out vote-by-mail applications even if the Secretary of State refuses to do so.

When General Assembly Republicans attempted to attach a punitive measure that would cut Cuyahoga County’s Local Government Fund resources by 10% ($1.7 million) if FitzGerald’s proposal passed, the County Executive requested that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach initiate a federal investigation into the measures taken by Ohio Republicans to restrict early voting. State House Republicans later withdrew their proposal.

On three previous occasions, FitzGerald has successfully challenged state restrictions on voting rights, including forcing Secretary Husted to agree to send vote-by-mail applications statewide in 2012 and prevailing in court when Secretary Husted attempted to shut down the final three days of early voting that same year.