Democratic candidates for secretary of state and attorney general were wearing professional attire when they spoke to reporters outside the early voting center in Franklin County today, the first day of early voting in Ohio. Calling themselves the “Election Protection Team,” State Senator Nina Turner and David Pepper, running for SOS and AG respectively, should have donned super hero garb given their promise to fight to expand access to the ballot box and protect voting rights, two job duties they say their incumbent GOP opponents have failed to do.
Today was the second stop on their three-city tour, which started in Cleveland, Turner’s home district. During the first stop, Turner and her family voted together. The Dem duo’s next stop was Cincinnati, where former Cincinnati City Councilman and Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper resides with his wife and now five-month old son.
Sen. Turner spoke in her usual energetic style, telling reporters that she and Pepper, when elected, would uphold the U.S. Constitution when implementing voting hours and voting rights. Turner referenced an appeal by Mike DeWine and Jon Husted that delayed early voting in Ohio by a week despite a federal district court ruling declaring this delay unconstitutional. Sen. Turner reaffirmed that “We are the team to stand up for all voters rights.” And with no evening hours, due to the court’s ruling, Turner wants voters to remember which party and candidates want to expand access and which want to curb participation.
David Pepper recalled that early voting has been in wide use since Republicans approved it in 2005 following the suspicious maneuverings of fellow Republican Ken Blackwell, Ohio’s SOS at the time. Many still believe Blackwell used shady means to help secure the election of George W. Bush in Ohio that year. Pepper bore down on DeWine and other Ohio officials for their involvement in five cases over the past three years that went to the U.S. Supreme Court. In each case, the Court let stand lower court rulings that declared Republican election law changes unconstitutional.
Pepper also took DeWine and others on for derailing access to the ballot for third party candidates. “We need officers who respect the right to vote,” he said, adding that efforts to tamp down participation are a waste of time and money. “It’s an embarrassment,” he said of the legislature’s actions to pass variations of laws that have previously been declared unconstitutional. Pepper said that if elected attorney general, he will crate a voter protection unit staffed with “lawyers who know what they’re doing.” He said DeWine, a former two-term U.S. Senator and Lt. Governor, should have told them to “stop” but didn’t. What DeWine and Husted have done to appeal laws to high courts is “a spectacle we don’t need in Ohio.”
Turner said Pepper would be the type of attorney general Ohio needs. As for her, “I would follow the law but I would fight the legislature,” she said, contrasting herself with Mr. Husted, who she doesn’t believe in protecting access to the ballot or voters rights. Mr. Husted has claimed he’s made it easy to vote and hard to cheat. Turner promised to “let them know early on” if lawmakers are proposing to pass unconstitutional bills.
Pepper and Turner were joined by former congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy, now a Franklin County judicial candidate, and William Anthony, Chairman of the Franklin County Democratic Party. Kilroy underscored the importance of the franchise, as did Anthony who said, “Early voting started today, a week late, but it started.”
Asked by OhioNewsBureau what it will take to get sleepy Democrats to the polls this year, Sen. Turner said,”There’s plenty of stuff. There’s voter stuff, women stuff, there’s more than enough to turnout to vote for.” She said “voters of conscious” need to vote, regardless of party affiliation, because it impacts all of us, GOP and Libertarians. Pepper fixed again on the lack of debates, a twist Republicans like Gov. John Kasich have inserted into this election by refusing to appear publicly along side their opponents. He said it appears to be a “concerted effort” to reduce participation by narrowing the voting base, which he said results in less energy.
One of the most appalling occurrences, he said, was Kasich Republicans tossing third parties like the Green Party and Libertarian Party from the ballot. “Their rights were violated by ballot access law,” he said, wondering aloud how the judge who made the decision could make it while being a designated attorney by DeWine an another case? “That shouldn’t be happening in Ohio,” he said, adding, “Everyone wants a little better democracy than they’re getting in Ohio.”
One onlooker tried to rain on Pepper and Turner more than it was already doing. On his way to vote, the bystander dressed in shorts and a T-shirt interrupted and heckled the two candidates. “Government should be solving problems, not perpetuating them,” the unidentified man said. “Serve in the Senate a couple years and get lifetime benefits? That’s a load, man. Show me one other job where that happens.” He said people are spoiled who work for government and then go to work in the private sector. “When was the last time any politician solved any problem? You’re all crooks.”
As the middle-aged Caucasian male walked behind the two candidates, glaring at them as he went, Pepper joked, “I’ll put him down as an undecided.”