Marchers with signs at the March on Washington, 1963. Marion S. Trikosko/Unseen Histories/Unsplash
May 3, 2021 — Dr. Geraldine Hayes Nelson, President of the Portage County NAACP
Let’s be honest. Fear of the growing number of Black and brown people participating in American democracy is what’s behind a massive push by conservative lawmakers in 47 states (so far) to pass voter suppression bills, laws that would make it much more difficult to cast a ballot in elections.
And in the coming weeks, conservative lawmakers in Ohio will introduce bills aimed at silencing Black and brown voices by creating yet more hurdles and barriers to voting.
Republican state Rep. Bill Seitz (Cincinnati) has drafted a bill that will require two forms of ID to vote early or by mail, prohibit pre-paid postage on mail-in ballots, put a hard limit of one voting drop-box per county and eliminate a day of early voting the Monday prior to the election.
If passed into law, this bill will do great harm to Black and brown voters across our great state at a critical time in our life as a democratic nation — mere months from a violent insurrection that sought to overturn the results of the presidential election.
“Election integrity” is what proponents of such bills falsely cite as their reason for pushing such laws. But the simple truth is that our elections are safe and secure already; voter fraud is a non-issue in our state — or in any state across the country. Just this past January, Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose touted Ohio’s 2020 election as a huge success, saying “I think we ran the most successful election we’ve ever had.”
Instead of wasting precious time devising new ways to silence Black voices by making it even more difficult to cast a ballot, our lawmakers should be working overtime to ensure that every voice is heard by making it easier — not harder — to cast your ballot and participate in American democracy.
Call your state lawmakers today and urge them to stand up, take action and defeat any attempt to suppress the voices and voters of our great state.
May 5, 2021 — Marge Conner, North Benton
As I prepare to work the election polls tomorrow [yesterday], I am compelled to respond to Dr. Hayes Nelson’s May 3 editorial [letter to the editor]. If we are being honest, requiring a person to provide identification is not voter suppression. Providing identification simply verifies the identity of the person voting. That is all it does, nothing more. Asking for identification for all sorts of reasons is routine and widely accepted. So, why should voting in elections, which is one of most important duties we can undertake as citizens, be different?
When I read that requiring identification will suppress persons of color, I wondered — why? To learn more, I read the studies on voter identification and understand some persons may need assistance to obtain an identification document. Thus, the answer is not to sacrifice our election process to “fix” another issue, the answer is to dismantle the hurdles to obtaining identification documents. The answer is also, for those who are able, to take personal responsibility to get identification and then use it to go vote.
Does voter fraud occur? I do not know and neither does anyone else. Evidence certainly suggests fraud does occur. It is an important issue that should be addressed; however, many chose to ignore the evidence. In fact, it is my understanding the protest in D.C. this year was mostly in response to evidence of voter fraud being ignored. I do not condone the violence that surrounded that protest, nor do I condone the violence and damage that has occurred in other locations. Regardless of why these protests occur, violence should never be an acceptable solution.
Voting in America is a right and, more importantly, a responsibility. It should not be hard to cast a ballot; however, it should be hard, if not impossible, to cast more than one ballot, to cast a ballot for someone who is dead or has moved, or to cast a ballot if someone is not properly registered. Proper identification is one method to reduce the threat of fraud.
I encourage all citizens who believe in fair and honest elections to contact their representatives to defeat any attempt to marginalize the integrity of our election process.
May 6, 2021 — Dr. Geraldine Hayes Nelson, President of the Portage County NAACP
In Wednesday’s Portager (May 5), Marge Conner responded to my statement which appeared this past Monday (May 3). I wrote that state Rep. Bill Seitz had drafted a bill that would require two forms of ID to vote early or by mail, prohibit pre-paid postage on mail-in ballots, put a hard limit of one voting drop-box per county and eliminate a day of early voting the Monday prior to the election. Such provisions, cast by proponents as “ballot integrity” measures, are in fact designed to make it more difficult to vote.
Currently, one form of ID is required in the state of Ohio to vote early or by mail. Adding an additional ID requirement is not only unnecessary — our own Secretary of State, Frank LaRose, declared the 2020 election a huge success — it can also create another hurdle for those wishing to cast a ballot and participate in our democracy.
“If we are being honest, requiring a person to provide identification is not voter suppression,” Ms. Conner wrote. “Providing identification simply verifies the identity of the person voting.”
Voters are currently required to use one form of ID to vote; that’s not in dispute. But requiring a second form of ID, as envisioned in this draft bill, to cast your ballot? Given the long history of outright (and hidden) voter suppression tactics inflicted upon Black citizens over the years — the sad legacy of Jim Crow — this additional ID requirement creates the impression that the lawmakers pushing it certainly hope it will suppress the vote of those who don’t favor them. And that includes a lot of Black and brown voters.
Just to correct the record — the violent insurrection that took place on Jan. 6 did not occur because evidence of voter fraud was ignored, as Ms. Conner contended. More than 85 lawsuits failed to find any evidence of fraud, and multiple recounts in multiple states only confirmed the simple truth: President Joe Biden won the election. The Jan. 6 insurrection occurred because certain powerful individuals pushed a Big Lie: that Biden stole the election (with the help of a lot of Black voters).
And so the Big Lie lives on; it is now being used as justification to push through bills that will make it more difficult to vote in 47 states. Given that context, lawmakers pushing these measures should not and cannot be given the benefit of the doubt. As believers in truth, justice and equity, we see this coordinated, national push by lawmakers for what it is: voter suppression.