On September 29 workers with the huge We Are Ohio coalition turned in 318,460 signatures on referendum petitions to place HR 194, Ohio’s voter suppression bill, on the November ballot. Ohio requires 3% of the number voting in the previous election in 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties to sign referendum petitions to place the issue on the ballot. In this case 231,000 signatures were required. Not only did the coalition get more than enough signatures, the signatures obtained came from over 5% of Ohio voters in 68 of Ohio’s counties. The coalition will still have another two weeks to continue getting signatures in order to supplement the total turned in.

“This corporate administration has opened an all out attack on working families, the middle class and all Ohioans who are not millionaires,” stated Petie Tallie, Vice President of the Ohio AFL-CIO & coordinator for organized labor in the anti-HR 194 campaign. “HR 194 would disenfranchise millions of voters in our state, especially seniors, youth and minorities. People have fought too hard for too long and took too many casualties to allow our rights to be rolled back,” said Tallie. “We are not going to allow this administration to take away the rights we’ve fought and won!”

HR 194, also called the voter suppression act in Ohio, would require voters to show an ID to vote. However, the bill disallows student IDs or military IDs and would require those not having a driver’s license to purchase a new special Ohio Voter ID for this purpose. Early voting, which was initiated during the previous Democratic, Strickland administration, would be severely limited by HR 194. Absentee ballots will no longer be mailed to voters automatically under the new law.

“This is just a new Jim Crow/poll tax passed by the Republicans to keep folks from voting,” stated Rev. Dale Snyder. “African Americans are specifically being targeted by this act, but not ONLY African Americans. All working folks, poor folks, youth and retirees are being targeted in order to try to keep people from voting. We will not stand by and allow our rights to be taken away, not after so many suffered so much and gave up so much to gain our voting rights.”

HR 194 is seen by many as both a coordinated Republican attack in many states on people’s democratic voting rights, as well as an act of desperation. Earlier this year SB 5, a bill that did away with public worker’s right to bargain was narrowly passed, by only one vote & with only Republican votes in the Ohio Senate. A massive coalition led by organized labor, but including church, community, youth, retirees and others, organized a huge campaign against the law, filing over 1.3 million signatures to place SB 5 on the November ballot. Recent polls have shown large majorities, from 15% to 24% of Ohioans, prepared to vote to repeal SB 5 in the upcoming election.

“This time they’ve overstepped,” said Don Coulter, president of Central Ohio SOAR. “First they attacked pubic workers, while giving millions from the public till to their billionaire buddies, and now they’re trying to even take away our rights to vote. Retirees have taken it on the chin with Republicans in office, but we vote and we’ll damn-well not let them take our rights away!” Tallie spoke of thousands of Ohioans who’d volunteered in the effort to reverse HR 194. She centered Stark County (Canton/Massillon) as an area where great work was done.

“AFL-CIO President Dan Scurry had has folks out every day went we started the campaign,” she said. “When they attacked worker’s rights, the communities rose up to help. Then they went after our voting rights and Dan and so many other union leaders stepped up to help the community coalition win this fight as well.”

The Ohio Secretary of State has another month to certify the signatures on the HR 194 petitions for the November ballot.