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Smith August 2011 E-newsletter

Smith August 2011 E-newsletter

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08/22/2011

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SHIRLEY SMITHSHIRLEY SMITH
 
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Want to get in touch withSenator Smith? Use theinformation below to contacther Columbus office.
 The Honorable Shirley A. Smith1 Capitol Square,The Ohio StatehouseSenate Annex, Suite 223Columbus, Ohio 43215Email Telephone: 614-466-4857
Stay up-to-date with the SenateDemocrats! Follow us on thesesites:
Facebook Twitter The Senate Democratic Blog 
For legislative information,check out these websites:
The Ohio Senate Ohio Senate Schedule Watch Session Search for Legislation 
 
Office staff 
Legislative Aide:
Ed Stockhausen
 Administrative Aide:
 Alan Ohman
 
Dear Neighbors and Friends,
In my thirteen years as a legislator, I have never experienced a legislativeseason quite like the one that ended earlier this year. The Ohio Senate hasdealt with a myriad of issues that hold important implications for you and yourfamily.House Bill 194 makes significant changes to Ohio’s voting laws. This legislationhas significant shortcomings because it restricts access to the voting booth.Provisions that would have required voters to present photo identification atthe polls failed to move because of significant public pressure against it.I have also spent a great deal of time working on Ohio’s next two-year budget.As you may have heard on the news, this budget cuts funding for schooldistricts, local governments, and other essential programs. While we have tospend within our means, I believe that it is important to support our historiccommitments.Finally, last month I traveled Ohio as a member of the Select Committee onCongressional Redistricting. I will use the testimony that I heard to make surethat the legislature designs fair congressional districts that accurately representOhio’s diversity.I am eager to make my voice heard on these important issues, and I want tohear your voice as well. My office is always open to you via phone, email, orpostage mail. Never hesitate to contact me regarding your feelings on anyissues before the legislature.
Sincerely,
Shirley A. Smith
State Senator, 21
st
District
 
 
As the Ranking Member of the Sen-ate Committee on Government Over-sight & Reform, Senator Smith hasworked diligently on legislation thatwill affect Ohio’s elections system.In early May, Senator Smith met withSecretary of State John Husted todiscuss elections reform. As formercolleagues in the Ohio House of Rep-resentatives and the Senate, theSenator was glad to work with himon this issue. She noted multipleconcerns that needed to be consid-ered before any bill passed.“There has been no widespreadcases of voter fraud to fuel the needfor changes to Ohio’s election sys-tem,” Senator Smith said. “Ohio’slaws have prevented fraud andabuse, which indicates to me thatour system works.”Senator Smith stridently opposedefforts to include I.D. requirementsfor voting in this bill. She said that itwould be tantamount to a modernpoll tax that would suppress voting.Though this I.D. provision was re-moved, House Bill 194 still passedwith elements that unnecessarilylimit access to the polls. It shortensthe Early Vote period, moves thepresidential primary from March toMay, and prohibits county boards of elections from mailing out unsolic-ited applications for absentee voterballots.Senator Smith voted against H.B.194, saying that she fears this bill willmake it more difficult for registeredvoters to participate in Ohio elec-tions. A referendum on the issuemay be presented to voters this No-vember.
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Registered voters may vote early by mailand in person. Voters must file an applica-tion for an absentee-voter’s ballot, whichcan be secured from the Secretary of State’s website or your county Board of Elections.This application requires the voter’s birth-date and one of the following:
An Ohio driver’s license number,
A valid U.S. Passport, or
A copy of a current, valid photo I.D., a mili-tary I.D., or a current utility bill, bank state-ment, government check, paycheck, orother government document that showsthe voter’s name and current address.The absentee-voter’s ballot may be re-turned that day or mailed to the countyBoard of Elections before Election Day.
Early Voting In Person Down to 17 Days
Previously, anyone wishing to vote early in-person absentee coulddo so up to five weeks before the election. Now this time framehas been shortened to seventeen days, with no voting on Sundaysand only half-days on Saturdays.
There will be no in-person absen-tee voting during the weekend directly prior to the election.
 
Early Voting by Mail Reduced to 21 Days
The time frame for voting early by mail has been shortened to 21days from 35 days, severely reducing the opportunity and conven-ience of voting early. This change will likely affect elderly and dis-abled voters who cannot stand in long lines on voting day.
Early Voting: Current Law Compared to Old
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On June 28, Senator Smith andher Senate colleagues approvedlegislation that will create the OhioConstitutional ModernizationCommission. This commission ischarged with conducting an in-depth review of the Ohio Constitu-tion, promoting an exchange of ideas, considering problems re-lated to the process of amendingthe Constitution, and issuing rec-ommendations to the General As-sembly. The Commission’s pur-pose would serve as a preparatory  body to a convention (should one be called in the 2012 election), anda revisory body to advise the legis-lature with respect to neededchanges.The Commission will consist of 32members: 12 appointed jointly by the leaders of the Ohio General Assembly, those 12 then appoint-ing an additional 20 members (notfrom the General Assembly) by amajority vote. Members will serve without compensation, except forexpected expenses. Recommenda-tions for the Commission’s report would require a large, bipartisantwo-thirds vote of the member-ship.Given Ohio’s unique history andfuture challenges, the Moderniza-tion Commission will provide us with a forum within which to reex-amine the fundamental questionof what kind of basic legal frame- work should guide Ohio’s govern-ment and its citizens. Ohio voterscan look forward to reviewingthese new ideas in the years tocome.
 
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Every ten years, after the releaseof the U.S. Census, the Ohio legis-lature makes changes to Ohio’sCongressional districts based onchanges in population. SenatorSmith, along with four other statesenators, was appointed to theOhio Senate Select Committee onRedistricting, which, with fiveOhio Representatives, heard andconsidered public testimony onthe important topic of redrawingthose political districts.Senator Smith and the other com-mittee members traveled aroundOhio in July and August and lis-tened to public testimony ondrawing Ohio’s new congressional boundaries. Hearings were sched-uled in Columbus, Zanesville,Lima, and Cincinnati, as well asCleveland State University, theheart of Senator Smith’s district. At each of these stops, members of the public and governmental rep-resentatives urged the committeeto support a fair and transparentredistricting process that placespartisanship aside."Redistricting must be a fair andopen process that respects thegreat diversity in our state,” Sena-tor Smith said. “I encourage theresidents of Cleveland and North-east Ohio to join me in speakingup for fair representation in Con-gress.”The 2010 Census revealed thatOhio’s population growth wasslower than that of most otherstates. This slow growth meansthat Ohio will lose two of its eight-een Congressional districts. Toeliminate these districts, lawmak-ers are expected to closely exam-ine Cuyahoga County due to itscontinued decline in population.Unless a referendum is held onnew election laws that were re-cently passed, the committee’s work must be completed by early February so that congressionalcandidates can file in the newly drawn districts.If you would like to try your handat this complicated and importantissue, the 2011 Ohio RedistrictingCompetition, presented by theLeague of Women Voters, OhioCitizen Action, and the MidwestDemocracy Network, allows Ohiocitizens an interactive redistrict-ing experience. Citizens can draw their own maps and enter themfor a chance to win cash prizes.More information can be found at www.drawthelineohio.org.
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