COLUMBUS, Ohio-Cleveland area Black leaders like U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-11) (pictured), a Warrensville Hts. Democrat, and state Rep. Bill Patmon (D-10) (pictured 2nd), a Cleveland Democrat, say that a bill dubbed Senate Bill 295 that passed the Ohio Senate last week that repeals or replaces House Bill 194, the voter suppression bill, will work to silence the Black vote in Ohio in November and is designed to circumvent a voter's referendum on HB 194.
"The rush by the Republican led Ohio Senate to repeal H.B. 194 will most certainly lead to voter confusion," said Fudge, whose 11th Congressional District includes Cleveland's east side and Black pockets of Akron, a city some 35 miles south of Cleveland. "Ultimately, I welcome a roll back of any measure that suppresses voting disproportionately for specific groups of voters, but the deliberate inclusion of a ban on in-person early voting three days prior to an election speaks volumes about the intent of the Ohio Senate, and it is my fear that they will repeal and replace the law with similarly restrictive provisions on voting, without an opportunity for Ohioans to again voice their opinion through a referendum."
SB 295, which Senate Democrats unanimously opposed, must pass the Ohio House and escape a veto not expected by Republican Gov John Kasich to become law.
And it is likely that it will become a state law subject also to a voters referendum like HB 194 if the Democrats get enough signatures to put it on the ballot next year after the presidential election is over, though lawmakers are confused on the legalities of attempts by the Republican controlled state legislature to stop a voter referendum on the November ballot of HB 194 through the substitute SB 295.
The Ohio Democratic Party collected enough signatures last year to let voters decide if HB 194 should stand or be repealed as a state law that, among other requirements, slashes early voting and requires Ohioans to jump hurdles through identification mandates to vote in November when President Barack Obama will square off with Mitt Romney, the likely nominee for the Republican Party for president of the United States of America.
Angry over the upcoming ballot initiative relative to HB 194, the Ohio Senate watered down the voter suppression agendas that were in HB 194 and passed SB 295 , making a voter referendum on HB 194 essentially null and void, maybe.
Though the Ohio Constitution allows voters to decide if HB 194 should stand or be repealed because enough signatures were secured to put the issue on the ballot through what is called a referendum vote, it is unclear what happens when the state legislature repeals the law before voters can decide themselves whether to dump it or not.
Ohio State Rep. Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland)
"When you have an argument between the legislature or the executive branch and the people, the courts usually decide the outcome," said Patmon, one of five Cleveland area Black state legislators, and a former Cleveland councilman who ran unsuccessfully for mayor against current Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson in 2009. "It's all designed to undermine the people that are fighting for the right to vote."
The Rev Jesse Jackson Sr.
Civil Rights activists such as the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. (pictured 3rd) are upset too.
"We need the attorney generals of the 34 states to convene and protect the right to vote," said Jackson in referencing HB 194 and similar bills pushed by the Republicans in other states during a visit to Cleveland last year.
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