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Congresswoman Fudge Brings Voting Rights Hearing To Northeast Ohio

Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, fourth from the left, stands with other elected officials and witnesses who testified at a House Elections Subcommittee hearing on voting rights. [ideastream/Darrielle Snipes]

Congresswoman Marcia Fudge held a hearing on suppression of voting rights in her home state of Ohio Thursday at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland.

As chair the House Subcommittee on Elections, the Warrensville Heights Democrat is collecting data around the country in hopes of restoring a provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that was thrown out by the Supreme Court.

At today's hearing, members of the subcommittee including its only Republican, Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois, heard testimony from the NAACP of Ohio, Policy Matters, All Voting is Local and the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.

Fudge said states should not establish unnecessary rules that prevent people from voting.

“As elected officials it is our responsibility to see that every American has the unfettered, unabridged right to vote,” said Fudge. “We should not say that because you didn't vote today, you cannot vote next week. The Constitution says you have a right to vote. It doesn't say if you don't vote, then I am going to take it from you.”

Inajo  Davis Chappell, a member of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, testified that limits on early voting have hindered  voting participation by the elderly, the poor and those who live in urban areas.

“Having the same in-person early hours for every county (in the state) is a missed opportunity for both efficient election administration and robust voter participation in the largest voting district in Ohio,” she said.

Mike Brickner, with the nonprofit group All Voting is Local, said voting obstacles need to be eliminated.

“Ohioans, particularly those of color, face needless barriers to the ballot," Brickner said. He cited the moving of polling places, which may leave voters confused and frustrated, and high reject rates for provisional ballots as examples of policies that undermine voting rights.

After the hearing, Fudge said she supports Secretary of State Frank LaRose's call to reform Ohio's voting system by automatically registering Ohioans -- or updating their registrations -- when they interact with any state agency. Republican LaRose says that will reduce the chances that eligible voters are purged from registration rolls for inactivity.

“I think anything that gets more people registered and gets more people to vote is a good thing,” said Fudge. “So if he is finding other ways to get people registered, I am happy about that. But we still have a lot of work to do.”

Fudge's committee will be in Florida for its next hearing on May 6.


darrielle.snipes@ideastream.org | 216-916-6404