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Published: Wednesday, 10/5/2011

Marchers back early voting

70 gather at Board of Elections to oppose House Bill 194


Opponents of Ohio's proposed election law marched yesterday from a near-downtown church to the Lucas County early voting center to protest and to cast ballots on the first day of early voting for the Nov. 8 election.

About 70 people, including a few local Democratic politicians, met at Third Baptist Church on Pinewood Street to make the 20-minute walk to the county Board of Elections' office at 1302 Washington St., where some people voted by casting in-person absentee ballots.

The Rev. Talmadge J. Thomas, pastor of City of Zion, Mount Zion Church, said the goal of the march was to "express the voice of workers and people who don't want their privileges of early voting retracted and interrupted."

The Nov. 8 election will feature several hot-button issues, including Issue 2, which would uphold or repeal a law curtailing public employee collective bargaining, and Issue 3, which would allow Ohio to opt out of the newly enacted national health-care law. Voters also will elect city council and township board of trustee members as well as vote on some levies.

Marchers were invited by Organizing for America, a group formed by President Obama, to sign a petition to put the question of repealing the voting law, known as House Bill 194, on the ballot in November, 2012. The petition drive has succeeded in temporarily halting the bill from being enacted until the referendum next year, but still has to prove it raised enough valid signatures.

Republicans who passed the bill this year said it was designed to make voting laws in the state uniform and to reduce the possibility of fraud. Democrats say it was designed to suppress the turnout of minorities and lower-income people who typically vote Democratic.

HB194 shortens the time for absentee and early voting, spells out when provisional ballots can be counted, and delays next year's presidential primary from March to May, among 140 changes made to the election law.

The march was organized by the NAACP, the Urban League, Project Reconnect, and We Are Ohio.

The Board of Elections has scheduled early voting for 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays until the election, except for Oct. 10, a holiday; 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. the two Saturdays before the election, and noon to 4 p.m. the two Sundays before the election.

The early vote center is to be the scene of more protesting today when opponents of Senate Bill 5, the Republican-backed measure curtailing collective bargaining for public employees in Ohio, make a stop during a "People's Road Trip" at 10 a.m.

Contact Tom Troy at tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.

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