Episode 61: The Fight for Fair Voting in Ohio: An In-Depth Look with Greer Aeschbury
Join us in our captivating dialogue with the dynamic Greer Aeschbury, Ohio’s senior campaign manager with All Voting is Local Action. She provides her expert perspective on the essential work the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition is doing to ensure voting accessibility and fairness. Together, we dive deep into their battle against State Issue 1 and the repercussions of the new voter ID law.
A significant part of our discussion centers on the implications of Ohio’s collaboration ban. We unravel how it adversely affects poll worker recruitment, voter registration, and voter education. Despite claims from the Secretary of State that the law is an anti-fraud measure, it’s clear that it’s hampering the Board of Elections’ ability to cooperate effectively with community groups. We take a moment to laud the fundamental work of poll workers and encourage you, our listeners, to take an active part in this process.
As we round up our discussion, we give a nod to the upcoming special election on August 8th. It’s a chance for Ohio’s citizens to protect their constitutional rights, so be sure to cast your ‘no’ vote. We also explore the challenges in requesting and returning ballots, and the necessity of visiting your board of elections in person. With the help of the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition, we emphasize the importance of spreading the word and getting involved. Tune in to be part of this enlightening discussion and make a difference in promoting accessible and fair voting.
Greer Aeschbury is All Voting is Local’s Ohio Senior Campaign Manager.
Aeschbury is a community organizer who believes deeply in the power of everyday people to win justice for our communities. She was trained in the DART network in Broward County, Florida, where she learned how to build relationships to build power for issues like policing, housing, and elder care. Most recently, she helped lead the ACLU of Ohio’s largest statewide listening campaign as Deputy Organizing Director. She’s a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and currently lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her partner.
Vote Riders (ID help)
Read full transcript here
[0:00] This is Glass City Humanist, a show about humanism, humanist values, by a humanist. Here is your host, Douglas Berger. Ever wonder why voting isn’t as straightforward as it seems? What if we told you that there are barriers at the polls that could limit citizen power and democracy? Join us for a robust dialogue with Greer Ashbery, the Ohio’s senior campaign manager with All Voting is Local Action. We delve into the specifics of State Issue 1, the recent voter ID law, and the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition’s efforts to make voting more accessible and fair. Glass City Humanist is an outreach project of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie, building community through compassion and reason for a better tomorrow.
[1:01] Our guest today is Greer Ashbery, the Ohio Senior Campaign Manager with All Voting is Local Action. All Voting is Local is on the steering committee of the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition, which is dedicated to ensuring that our elections are modern, secure, and accessible for all Ohioans. The coalition members are opposed to state issue one that is coming up in August to be decided, with a special election. Thank you for joining us. Thank you for having me.
[1:34] You are not one of the feared outside agitator, political agitators conservatives tell us to fear all the time. Although all voting is local, is a national group, you live and work in Ohio. How did you get started in community organizing? Yeah, that’s right. I actually first was exposed to community organizing as a kid in Dayton and Columbus, where I grew up, and my dad was an organizer. After college and a few experiences, I decided I wanted to try that out, and I started doing it in Florida, where I kind of learned the ropes, and then I missed my home state of Ohio. So I moved back here about five or six years ago to Cincinnati where I’ve been living and working and organizing. And how long have you been with All Voting is Local? I’ve been with All Voting is Local just shy of a year. Oh, okay. Yeah. And, you know, like I said, All Voting is Local is part of the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition. What is the mission of the of the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition? Yeah, our goal is really to make voting accessible, make it fair for all people and remove barriers to the polls. So everything that we do is with an eye for making our democracy stronger and making it possible for every citizen in Ohio to have their voice heard.
[2:55] Yeah, and for those who might not be informed, State Issue 1 would fundamentally change the process of citizens petitioning to amend the Ohio State Constitution. It would raise the passing threshold to 60% and double the amount of signatures required by requiring all 88 counties contribute signatures. And if you fall short in numbers, you have to start completely over with the process. All voting is local action, as well as all the partners in the coalition are opposed to state issue one. Why should we be opposed to this issue?
[3:31] This issue is really about our voice as citizens in Ohio and our ability to speak for what we care about. We’re seeing all of us value, I think the freedom to make decisions about our lives communities. And issue one is an attempt to cut that power off to make it so that we don’t have the avenue to make our voices heard anymore. You know, the other side talks about special interests, but this is actually an issue. The issue one campaign is funded by special out of state who are concerned that Ohio voters are going to vote for things that they don’t like. They’re afraid of what we the people are going to decide and rather than trust us or listen to us, they just want to change the rules of the game to cut us out of the equation.
[4:29] And I also find it ironic that the same people who aren’t normally following the Constitution now want to be so protective of us. That gives me a red flag right there. Yeah, that’s interesting. We had to vote on using unconstitutional maps in our last election, and that didn’t seem to concern some folks very much.
[4:55] Another way that political conservatives in the state try to prevent people from voting is by passing the strict voter ID law recently, that now only accepts a state driver’s license, passport, military ID, or Veterans Affairs card, what is Ohio Voter Rights Coalition going to address that change.
[5:17] Yeah, we were incredibly concerned as soon as we saw the text of that bill, which was in December. It was rushed through the legislature and signed on January 6 by the governor. And so in January, we started meeting every other week with a subcommittee of our group to plan how we were going to educate Ohioans about these new changes and make sure that we could mitigate the disenfranchisement under the new laws.
[5:45] Laws. So we’ve created in that committee, we’ve reached out to the BMV to make sure that we were clear on all the implications for getting IDs and any unintended consequences from the law. We created a speakers bureau that provides free training, resources, materials to anyone in Ohio about how to vote under our new voter laws. We’ve got actually over 80 volunteer speakers trained for that Speakers Bureau and going out all over the state this summer to educate our communities about that work. And then we created materials to kind of distill the new changes and have been distributing those all over as well. So we’re doing everything we can to let people know about what’s going to be different about this election. May, the May primaries, was the first time we we were voting under these new rules. But as you know, though, there were very few elections actually on the ballot. So this.
[6:49] August election is going to be the bigger test of whether Ohioans really understand how to vote in this new landscape.
[6:57] Yeah, and one of those materials that you sent me was a copy of this little brochure. Yes. It explains it pretty, pretty clearly. Ohioans who don’t have a driver’s license can get a state ID for free. And I was looking at the process on the BMV website preparing for this interview today, and they have a long list of acceptable documents. Ironically, you can use a utility bill to prove your address to get a card to vote. Previously under the ID law, you could use a utility bill to vote. Right. And it accepts a Medicare card with a full Social Security number, even though Social Security numbers haven’t been used since 2019. And if you have a recently expired driver’s license, you can only use it to prove your address.
[7:50] What help is there for people to wade through all that conflicting information so that they they can get their free ID. Yeah, it is. It is quite a job for some folks to find out how to get all the documents that they need to get an ID. And our lawmakers, when they were passing this bill, liked to tout that it was a free ID, so it would be accessible for people. But that’s only one piece of the cost. So in addition to the other documents that you mentioned, things like birth certificates, Social Security cards, some people might have misplaced those. They might have been born out of state, and getting a hold of those documents can be really time consuming, expensive, there’s often a charge for each document that you have to, you know, get a replacement of, and it can take time. So luckily, here in Ohio, an organization called VoteRiders came to help us after this new bill was passed. And they’re an organization that is dedicated to helping people get the ID that they need to vote. You can find information about them at VoteRiders.org. They’ve got hotlines and text lines that you can contact, and they actually.
[9:04] Have folks on the ground in Ohio that will help you walk through the process to get the documents that you need in order to go to the BMV and actually get that free ID. And they even help cover the cost of getting, let’s say, a birth certificate or even getting transportation to go to the BMV. So they’re an incredible resource and really saving us for all the folks who have trouble getting there. And then there are other local efforts that are similar that have been.
[9:33] Going on for a while to help people get IDs as well. But I think that’s one of the biggest sort of hidden barriers to this new voting law that wasn’t considered when this bill was rushed through the legislature that going to the BMV and getting a free ID is not as simple as it sounds, and it requires some work for you to get everything you need before you can actually go to the BMV.
[9:58] Yeah, and I know for like women that are married and have gotten a divorce, they have to bring their divorce document, their marriage document, and they might not have those things, and they have to get them from the courthouse, and they charge money for that, too. So yeah, it’s just a lot of paper, and they don’t tell you up front. No, no. No, and I hate to think of people going to the trouble of going to the BMV, maybe even taking off work, waiting in line and getting to the front of the line and realizing they don’t have the documents that they need to get this ID to vote. I will say that another option that we wanna make sure people are very aware of is that they can vote by mail without an ID, a photo ID. They just need the last four digits of their social security number. So when those barriers are too big, they’re too insurmountable or you’re short on time, voting by mail is an option, but you do need to be careful of the deadlines for requesting and returning your mail-in ballot.
[11:05] Are you aware of any other barriers besides the cost of the paperwork to getting the free ID?
[11:12] Well, I think the other barrier is time. You’re gonna have to go to the BMV office. You have to wait in line and that depends on how long it is, on what day it is, what time of day and where in Ohio you are. I would encourage people to check the BMV’s website if they’re planning to go because there’s actually an option to get in line online. So you can cut your wait time somewhat by signing up online. And you can also double check on their website what documents you need before you go in. But I don’t wanna underestimate the time that can be involved in getting there during their business hours. That in and of itself can be a barrier, especially for folks who are working all day. Now, one of the arguments used for stricter ID is to prevent voting fraud. Are you aware of any voting fraud needs that we need to be protected from. No, certainly not voting fraud related to identification. You know, every now and then there might be an instance of someone accidentally voting twice or voting in two states. This bill doesn’t do anything for that. And actually, ironically, the one system that we had that made sure that we were sharing information with other states and keeping an eye out for double voting was called ERIC.
[12:39] And our secretary of state left that organization this year and cut us off from the ability to collaborate with other states and make sure that our voter rolls were accurate and not duplicated across states. So to me, it seems rather disingenuous to claim that this bill is somehow fighting voting fraud.
[13:01] While removing us from a system that was actually designed to do that. And at the end of the day, our Secretary of State also brags that we have a 99.99% accuracy rate in our elections. That right there tells me that we don’t have a problem with voter fraud. Yeah, that’s what he says when he’s promoting himself. But when he’s trying to raise cash, campaign cash, he tells people a different story. Would you like to be a guest on Glass City Humanist or know someone who would make a good guest? Let us know and visit glasscityhumanist.show and click on the link how to be a guest.
[13:42] When I was reading up on this issue, I found out and I should have remembered because it was a big deal when it came out, was that Ohio has a law that prevents state election officials from collaborating with any non-governmental entity, on activities related to voter registration, education, poll worker recruitment, or similar election-related activities. Can you tell us anything about that or how that affects your group? Yes, that’s known as the collaboration ban and it is a huge barrier that we’ve been dealing with for a few years now. This prevents things like a joint voter registration drive with the Board of Elections and an organization like ours or the League of Women Voters or a local church. It really hamstrings the Board of Elections on what they can do to work with the community to get the word out about voter registration and voter education, which we have seen be incredibly detrimental this year when we’re operating under new voting laws.
[14:48] Another problem or another area of collaboration that is severely hindered is poll worker recruitment. Poll workers are essential to our elections. They are the folks who make our elections work on election day. We have fabulous poll workers in Ohio. We have bipartisan teams at every single election. So there’s two people from each party at every step of the way of voting and of counting ballots.
[15:18] If we can’t recruit poll workers, that’s obviously a huge problem for our elections. And the collaboration ban, bans the board of elections from working with community organizations to do things like poll worker recruitment. And so that I think is one of the things that we have seen poll worker recruitment in particular get more and more difficult as we have dealt with, you know, the challenges of COVID in 2020, growing hostility towards election workers in general, a new special election thrown on the books just a few months ahead of time. You know, our boards of elections are amazing and they are working in overdrive, especially this summer. They also ran a special election last summer and things like the collaboration ban just sort of hamstring what we can do as community members to support the board of elections in everything that they’re doing.
[16:16] Yeah, and I do, I worked as a poll worker before the pandemic. And I know some friends of mine that have worked as poll workers, they’re refusing to work this special election because they don’t agree with it. So I bet you that pretty much hamstrings a lot of board of elections currently. Yeah, I’m sorry to hear that. You know, I would encourage listeners of the podcast to look into whether working as a the poll worker would work for them. Whether or not you think that this election should be held, it’s being held and poll workers are gonna be essential to make sure that all of us can cast our ballots and make our voices heard on the issue. But I also wanna thank you for your work as a poll worker in the past, that is wonderful. It’s not an easy job and sometimes thankless. So I really appreciate you doing that. Yeah, it was a very long day. Yes. A very long day. Now, as I said at the top, that your group is part of this coalition, who else is in the coalition?
[17:19] The coalition is sort of the typical folks that you’ve probably heard of in the democracy space. It’s the ACLU of Ohio, League of Women Voters, Common Cause, Ohio Voice, and then many, many, many grassroots organizations all across the state. That are doing work in their local communities. And so it is really a broad range of groups who have a stake in making sure our democracy works and that it’s healthy and safe.
[17:51] And are you focused mainly on the education aspect or are you also known to file lawsuits or anything like that?
[18:01] We, we do a lot of education, but it’s not the only thing we do, we do a lot of advocacy, we are constantly on the lookout for issues within our election system that we can fix that we can advocate to the Secretary of State, you know, make sure you know just recently, right now, there’s an issue with absentee ballot request forms, which one is going to be accepted. So we’re advocating to the Secretary of State all the time to make sure that we’re not putting unnecessary barriers in front of folks. And then we communicate with our local boards of elections to, you know, find out if there are problems or report things that we’re hearing from the community to them. In addition to that, we also run the Election Protection Network hotline here in Ohio. So that’s the 866-OUR-VOTE number, which I would also encourage all your listeners to jot down and reach out to if they ever have a problem voting. This is a hotline, nonpartisan hotline, available to answer questions about voting, anything from, you know, when is election day? Where can I get my ballot to help? I tried to go vote and they and they said, I’m not registered, what do I do? So that’s a really important hotline that we help make sure is available to all Ohioans. All right, let me put you on the spot with a question. Okay.
[19:24] Is a voter allowed to take a selfie of themselves voting? They can’t take a picture of their ballot. So, you know, get your little sticker picture, take a picture of yourself in front of the board of elections, that’s fine. You just can’t take a picture of your ballot. Yeah, because that came up on Twitter the other day. One of the politicians that’s behind a lot of these bills took a picture of his ballot as he’s voting. And he was quite certain that it was OK. Well, I’ll give a disclaimer. I’m not a lawyer. You always check with a lawyer. But yeah, we recommend not taking a picture of your ballot.
[20:07] Okay. And as also, as I mentioned at the top, you’re with all voting is local. What else does your group do with regards to voting? Yeah, we work with a lot of the same folks from the OVRC coalition around the state. We work in and partnership to do things like ensures college students have access to the ballot. We’re working with Campus Vote Project right now on a college student voting summit this fall to prepare our campuses to vote in the fall election. We do, I mentioned poll worker recruitment. We do a ton of poll worker recruitment. We worked last year with the National Association of social workers to get continuing education credit for social workers who still serve as poll workers. And then we also do things, you know, monitor the legislature when there are bills that come up, we testify, we provide research and kind of monitor the situation on voting rights in Ohio. A lot of our work is done in coalition with OVRC and with the partners on the ground that we’ve already talked about.
[21:21] And is this group something that somebody could join, or do you just mainly like take donations or through your 5013C group and?
[21:33] So my organization, All Voting is Local Action, is not a membership based organization, but the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition is something that people can get involved in. You can go to our website, ohiovoterrights.org, and you’ll find different committees to join. I run our 458 Education Committee, which is the one that gets the word out about the new voting law. So you’re welcome to join us on every other Thursday and get involved in the work that we’re doing, get involved in the Speakers Bureau, get involved in the election protection work. There’s all kinds of things that individuals can do. And just go to our website to check out all of those opportunities. We know that many of these election laws that have been passed recently are based on non-existent problems like recently Ohio made it so that undocumented people can’t vote in local elections, which I totally disagree with. Then we have the strict voter ID law that doesn’t prevent voter fraud and banning non-governmental groups from giving voters standing in long lines water or food because conservatives has reduced the number of polling locations that created the lines in the first place. And don’t get me started on the logic that more than one secure drop box in a county of 400,000 people is a prescription for fraud.
[22:58] What can the average voter do to try to correct some of these things.
[23:04] Well, the first thing I will say is vote, vote no on August 8th on issue one.
[23:10] This is the front line of preserving our voice as citizens and, and I also encourage people because it’s during the summer to make your plan to vote now, whenever you’re hearing my voice say this, look at your calendar and find out if you can go early vote, if you’re going to be in town on August 8th, or if you need to request an absentee ballot and make your plan right now, then text your friends and make sure they have their plan. I really can’t overstate how important this August election is to anything else that you care about and you want to work on and see happen in Ohio, because this is our opportunity to preserve our voice and our power as individual citizens. Beyond that, you’ve already cast your ballot, what else can you do? I think getting involved with a group like the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition or, you know, your local league chapter. In Cincinnati, where I’m based, we have a voter coalition. So I would.
[24:10] Encourage you to join those groups that already exist to amplify the work that they’re doing. There are people all over the state who are working year-round on registering voters, educators, educating people about how to vote. We’ve got a group in the committee that I run that’s really interested in high school voter registration, college voter registration. So, you can visit your local school district and figure out how you can get information into schools. But I would encourage you to find the groups that already exist, join those, and then get to work with them.
[24:45] Okay, and as we wrap up our talk today, is there anything else that voters should know about the upcoming election that we haven’t touched on earlier? Or is there something that you want to restate?
[24:57] Well, I do want to emphasize, I mentioned making a plan to vote, and that is incredibly important this summer because it’s an election we’re not used to at a time we’re not used to, but also because we’re operating under these new voting rules and our deadlines have changed. So you can vote early in person with your photo ID now through August 6th.
[25:22] There are different dates and times, almost every week to vote. So you’ll have to check your early voting calendar and then head to your Board of Elections early voting location in order to find out when you can go vote in person. To vote by mail, I want to really emphasize that people need to be aware of the deadlines. If you are planning to vote by mail, request your absentee ballot now. You have to actually send in a physical paper to request your absentee ballot. And I think people forget that sometimes. So there are multiple steps to vote by mail. You can go to voteohio.gov to get that application, print it out, mail it in, and then your board of elections is gonna send you your ballot. And we also encourage you to return that ballot as soon as possible because our deadline has shortened to return it. And now if you mail your ballot back in, it has to arrive at the board of elections by four days after election day. I know my mail often comes only once a week. So I would never rely on my mail getting to the board, in five days if I mailed it the day before the election.
[26:38] And your mail, your ballot also needs to be postmarked the day before the election. And I’m not sure if people know what postmarked means these days, but that means it’s stamped at the post office with August 7 on there to make sure that it’s going to count and then it has to get to the Board of Elections by four days after election day so You can mail it in. If you are confident you have plenty of time, but you can also drop it off at your Board of Elections in person, either at the drop box or inside And so I just don’t want people to wait until the last minute and think that they have time to turn in their ballot, and then find themselves, you know, the day after the election realizing their ballots not going to make it on time. So don’t gamble. Vote right now. I voted early the first day of election day so I am relieved to get to check that off my list, and I encourage everybody to figure out how you’re going to vote and then do it ASAP.
[27:40] Well, I learned something I didn’t know was about the postmark because I thought it had to be postmarked the day of the election, No, it’s the day before so yeah If you find yourself with a blank ballot the day of the election trying to put it in the mail You are going to be out of luck, So don’t play around with the mail-in ballots get those in way way way ahead of time, Yeah, and plus we were having problems with the mail there for a while file. Yeah, so yeah, I know you’re just if you’re just requesting this your ballot. Now you have to factor in that your board needs to get your request and then they’ve got to send you your ballot and then you have to return it. So it’s quite a bit of time that it can take for that. Yeah, probably be at least 14 days. Yep, depending and they’re sending out ballots now so. Requests are just go in person to your Board of Elections. That’s That’s one easy way to do it. Okay, Greer. Well, I really appreciate you joining us today and telling us everything that we needed to know about voting in the special election on August the 8th, and that people should vote no in order to protect their right to amend the Ohio Constitution.
[28:56] Thank you so much for having me and for spreading the word about this. It’s so important, and I really appreciate all the work you’re doing. Thank you for listening. For more information about the topics in this episode, please visit the episode page at glasscityhumanist.show. Glass-City Humanist is an outreach of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie. Surely can be reached at humanistswle.org. Humanist is hosted, written, and produced by Douglas Berger, and he’s solely responsible for the content. Our theme music is Glass City Jam, composed using the Amplify Studio. See you next time!
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Written, produced, and edited by Douglas Berger and he is entirely responsible for the content. Incidental voice overs by Shawn Meagley
The GCH theme is “Glass City Jam” composed using Ampify Studio
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