Winter 2014
LEGISLATOR PERSPECTIVE

Voting Rights Have Been Dismantled

By The Honorable Alicia Reece, Ohio State Representative is honored to serve her second term as state representative in the 33rd Ohio House District, which includes the city of Cincinnati, Springfield Township, and Hamilton County suburbs.  Rep. Reece is also the newly-elected president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus.  Rep. Reece is an active member of New Friends Baptist Church. She is a current member of the Order of Eastern Stars, NAACP, and is a founding member of the National Urban League of Young Professionals. 
Voting Rights Have Been Dismantled

This past year, the nation commemorated the 50th Anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the groundbreaking Civil Rights Act, and last year we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Washington, which resulted in the historic Voting Rights Act.  As we commemorate these landmark pieces of legislation, we are reminded of the harsh reality that states are still fighting against voter suppression and voter disenfranchisement tactics. Our voting rights are being dismantled in a strategic way, state by state, especially since record numbers of African Americans, Latinos, college students, and first-time voters exercised their right to vote and elected our country’s first African-American president, President Barack Obama.

When I was a student at Grambling State University in Louisiana, I was part of a coalition of Black and White students in the South who came together to defeat David Duke, former KKK Grand Wizard, for Governor of Louisiana. We were able to do so, in part, by registering young people to vote through the use of their student ID. It was at that time I began to wonder why I, as a U.S. citizen, have to worry about whether or not I will be able to maintain my right to vote based on the a Voting Rights Act that must be renewed every few years. Now, unfortunately, even this Voting Rights Act has been weakened with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.  

As a legislator in the Ohio House of Representatives, I have witnessed the passage of laws that make it harder to vote by shortening early voting and eliminating Golden Week (a week in which citizens could register and vote at the same time); establishing directives that limit evening, weekend, and Sunday voting (known as Souls to the Polls); as well as creating laws that make it more difficult to receive an absentee ballot or vote provisionally.

All of these election laws, which were originally established in bipartisan manner after Ohio’s botched presidential election in 2004, have been dismantled in a partisan way.

As a result, I have decided to offer a proactive, permanent solution to our voting rights problem in response to the cries of Ohioans from across the state, some of whom marched with Dr. King, went to jail, and even saw their friends die during the fight against Jim Crow Laws and for voting rights.

Last year, I had the honor to address the nation at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and called for a Voters Bill of Rights constitutional amendment in Ohio and in states across the country. The Voters Bill of Rights will provide citizens the power—not partisan General Assemblies plagued by partisan gerrymandered lines. Indeed, citizens will be able to decide upon their own voting rights by petitioning their government and placing permanent protections in our constitution, which has not been updated in 36 years, and does not explicitly give Ohioans the fundamental right to vote.

06-RepAliciaReeceThe Ohio Voters Bill of Rights has been certified by the Attorney General and approved by the ballot board as a single constitutional amendment. It will establish voting as a fundamental right, create online voter registration, maintain current voter identification options and expand them to include student identification, maintain a 35-day early voting period, require early voting locations be open the weekend before the election–(including the Sunday before an election), outlaw voting fraud, and mandate that a ballot cannot be rejected due to a poll worker’s error. 

By placing these protections in the Ohio Constitution, we ensure that the citizens, not the politicians, will control voting rights. And while the General Assembly may enact policies that increase access to the ballot box, they may not enact policies that restrict an individual’s right to vote.  

As is required, to date we have collected over 100,000 paper petitions statewide in all 88 counties (rural and urban areas) through this grassroots “people’s movement,” working toward collecting the 300,000 needed to place this amendment on the ballot.

History shows that when everyday people from all walks of life join together and stand up, our state and country become stronger.  Today I am reiterating my message from my speech on the National Mall last summer, “No more temporary solutions to permanent problems!” This voting rights movement starts in Ohio, but this ballot initiative can be replicated state by state as we work to make Dr. King’s dream real!

The Honorable Alicia Reece

Ohio State Representative is honored to serve her second term as state representative in the 33rd Ohio House District, which includes the city of Cincinnati, Springfield Township, and Hamilton County suburbs.  Rep. Reece is also the newly-elected president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus.  Rep. Reece is an active member of New Friends Baptist Church. She is a current member of the Order of Eastern Stars, NAACP, and is a founding member of the National Urban League of Young Professionals. 

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