In Ohio Union Battle, A Call To Video The Vote

by John Wellington Ennis

Ohioans go to the polls tomorrow to decide on SB5, a bill passed by the Ohio legislature that intends to dissolve public employee unions. This law is similar to one that was enacted in Wisconsin earlier in the year, but it goes further, to include the dissolution of firefighters and police unions. The placement of this ballot measure to be able to vote down SB5 was achieved by a referendum submitted with over 300,000 signatures. Along with a referendum on whether Ohio will recognize any national healthcare legislation, this off-year election has shaped up to be a contentious one, with significant Get Out The Vote efforts on both sides.

Besides being a perennial swing state, Ohio itself is a bellwether for the national mindset and prognosticator for political trends. The presidential election of 2004 revealed rampant breakdowns in election administration by Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, disenfranchising thousands from voting in a close election. A subsequent investigation of the House Judiciary Committee led by Rep. John Conyers reported:

“We find that there were massive and unprecedented voter irregularities and anomalies in Ohio. In many cases these irregularities were caused by intentional misconduct and illegal behavior, much of it involving Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, the co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio.”

In the wake of the 2004 election meltdown, concerned citizens banded together to document the 2006 national elections, using the newly-launched YouTube for real-time reporting on voter intimidation, closed polling places, misinformation, long lines, or any other problems.


My feature documentary FREE FOR ALL! studies what happened in the 2004 election, reviews Ken Blackwell’s extraordinary steps to suppress voters, and chronicles the grass-roots formation of Video the Vote nationwide in the run up to the 2006 elections. This video was our call to arms:

The current Ohio Secretary of State, Republican John Husted, is not offering an exclusive voter hotline like his predecessor, Democrat Jennifer Brunner, but is otherwise maintaining the same procedures her office implemented when it sought to clean up the electoral process in the ensuing controversy surrounding Blackwell’s tenure, according to Husted’s office.

The fight over voter access has continued in Ohio, with a Voter ID bill yet to be decided, along with a redistricting map proposed by the Ohio GOP that the Ohio Democratic Party is challenging in court.

A coordinator for Video the Vote Ohio, J.R. McMillan, explains that this election year presents an opportunity to prepare for the 2012 elections, while taking stock of the fallout from the foreclosure crisis.

“Of significant concern this year is the potential for hundreds of thousands of Ohioans to be denied their right to vote as a direct result of the mortgage crisis which has had an enormous impact a state already facing 15 consecutive years of increasing foreclosures. Layoffs, work stoppages and lack of new hiring, especially in the auto industry and larger manufacturing sector, have pushed many more into home foreclosure or an unexpected move in search of steady work. One of the often unforeseen consequences of such widespread relocations is the adverse affect moving has on voter identification and eligibility.

Even those lucky enough to move from a home into an apartment in the same school district or general vicinity may be surprised to find their polling locations have changed. Many have yet to update their voter registration, something of little immediate concern for those trying to find a job or just feed their families.

Worse still, Ohioans who may be in the process of foreclosure or living with friends and family while looking for work or a place they can afford, many not have the necessary documentation to prove residency. Drivers’ licenses will still have their former addresses, and those living on the kindness and compassion of others aren’t likely to have a utility bill in their names.

Even with Ohio’s proposed voter ID law failing to move forward in the Ohio Senate and opposed by Ohio Secretary of State Job Husted, hundreds of thousands of Ohio voters who have been forced to move since last November are at risk. As if losing their jobs and losing their homes weren’t bad enough, many Ohioans will discover on Election Day that they have also lost their right to vote.”

Originally based on a bucket-brigade model of dispatchers, shooters, runners, and uploaders, technology has made portable video sharing ubiquitous. Tech advances assist in learning about voting problems as they arise, as well as offer platforms for sharing reports by citizen journalists. Video the Vote Ohio will be following the efforts of organizations like Election Protection and tracking Twitter hashtags and Facebook posts for trouble reports to proactively dispatch filmmakers to problem-plagued precincts.

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