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Akron Council voices opposition to ‘restrictive’ state bills

3/6/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Stephanie Kist

Akron City Council members voted unanimously, and with strongly worded comments, for a resolution that opposes Ohio Senate bills 205 and 238, both of which have been signed into law by Gov. John Kasich.

Senate Bill 205 addresses absentee ballots and 238 addresses early voting — and both, according to the resolution, “are unnecessary and will suppress the votes of many people who deeply value the hard-won right.” Senate Bill 205 restricts the mailing of unsolicited absentee ballot applications, and Senate Bill 238 eliminates the six early voting days during which someone can both register to vote and cast an in-person ballot.

The resolution calls for the Ohio Democratic Party to challenge the bills in federal court “as a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.”

Councilwoman Linda Omobien (D-at large), who sponsored the bill along with Councilman Michael Williams (D-at large) and Councilwoman Tara Mosely-Samples (D-Ward 5), said there has not been widespread voter fraud in Ohio and the bills are “without merit.”

Williams added most cases of purported voter fraud turn out to be honest mistakes.

“These are just restrictive, suppressive measures,” Omobien said. “This is America; it’s not a Third World country.”

Council President Garry Moneypenny (D-Ward 10) concurred.

“I believe this [is] an attack on democracy,” he said. “It’s just against everything this country stands for.”

“This is nothing new, and it shouldn’t be surprising,” commented Councilman Jeff Fusco (D-at large), who said Republican lawmakers intend to especially restrict urban voters during election years that are important on a state and national level. “The Republicans have worked to restrict, to complicate, to confuse.”

“This pretty much takes us backwards,” added Councilman Bob Hoch (D-Ward 6). “We need to stop hindering our state politically, economically and morally.”

In other business, Fusco took a few minutes to publically laud Akron Police Officer Lloyd Ford for his quick actions recently when a diner at Akron Family Restaurant was choking. The incident occurred during a meeting at the restaurant that Fusco was attending.

“In this day and age, when it’s very fashionable to vilify public servants, we are very fortunate to have someone protecting us like Officer Ford,” Fusco said.

Moneypenny told Ford, who attended the meeting but declined an offer to speak, that a proclamation would be drawn up and presented to him in the near future.

In legislative action, Council approved the levying of assessments for the Downtown Akron Special Improvement District (SID). Assessments — which are calculated via a mathematical formula involving front footage, land and building values and the SID budget, which is $3.75 million — would fund public improvements and public services downtown. Downtown property owners will have the opportunity to appeal before the levying of assessments is finalized through Council action.

The next Akron City Council meeting will take place March 10 at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Akron Municipal Building, 166 S. High St. in Downtown Akron. Committee meetings are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. that afternoon, also in Council Chambers.

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