Steve Tingley-Hock is a Voting Rights Hero

New Orleans    Hey, let’s give three cheers for a peoples’ hero today in these dark times.  I’m raising my voice for Steve Tingley-Hock who has been a central figure in calling foul in Ohio to voting purges that have led to more than 40,000 people of 235,000 on the Secretary of State’s list being found to still be eligible voters.

I found Tingley-Hock’s story deep in a piece in the New York Times by reporter Nicholas Casey, so I’ll let him tell Steve’s great story, before I add to it.  Here’s what he says, beginning with a quote from Steve.

“If you look at the numbers, it’s hard not to be jaded by this,” said Steve Tingley-Hock, who runs a watchdog group called the Ohio Voter Project and initially discovered the error.

How Mr. Tingley-Hock, a volunteer who doesn’t work for the government, chanced upon such a big mistake shows the kind of unusual backstop the state now depends on to carry out its work correctly.

A database consultant by trade, Mr. Tingley-Hock in recent years developed a hobby of spending his weekends downloading the state’s voter data onto his own laptop where he manages a database that keeps track of every voter in Ohio.

“Someone needed to keep a record of what’s happening in the voter population,” said Mr. Tingley-Hock, who thinks the purges are targeting certain demographic groups, especially young voters. “If you want to know what I’m doing on a Saturday morning, it’s downloading these files from the state.”

Working on a shoestring budget and donations from relatives, he keeps track of similar data from six other states, including North Carolina and Florida, which have both been criticized for voter restrictions.

When Mr. LaRose’s office released the spreadsheet with the list of about 235,000 names to be purged, Mr. Tingley-Hock ran them through his own database and found thousands of names matching active voters.

“It’s a simple query if you have a database management system,” he said. “A guy at his dining room table can figure this stuff out. It’s not rocket science.”

I love this guy!  Shoestring.  Volunteer.  Donations from his family.  You look at his website and it seems to still be talking about 2016-17.  But, he’s not jaded.  He’s determined!  Hunkering down on Saturdays at local cafes or his own dining room table, he just saved 40,000 votes.  That’s not all.  Another half-dozen states benefit from his democratic obsession, including the battlegrounds of Florida and North Carolina, where hanky-panky might have free rein.

Not as many, but some props go to Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose for making this not only transparent, but in his words “crowdsourcing” the list before people were purged so that super-citizens like Steve and regular citizens can make sure they are squared away as voters and eliminate mistakes on the front-end.

Now once we finish praising Brother Steve and giving at least an attaboy to LaRose, we have to ask the “simple query” to use Steve’s words, why isn’t every state taking the time with their resources to create similar databases and making the lists available on the front end so that a voter purge is really a weeding out of the deceased and wrong addresses, rather than a political tool of voter suppression?

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Independent Political Action is Blooming in Columbus and Ohio

organizer screening at the historic Drexel

Columbus     Ohio has been a battleground state for a number of elections, even though it went solidly red in 2016 for Trump and seems southern with a Republican governor and legislature.  Visiting with people in the state capitol, Columbus, as well as spending time in Youngstown, Cleveland and Cincinnati, it is clear that there is a concerted grassroots fight to resist the red tide and turn Ohio around again.

I had met Amy Harkins one of the organizers of Yes, We Can Columbus at the screening of “The Organizer” and heard briefly about the effort and its attempt to elect members of the local school board and city council.  As luck would have it, I met later with Amy and some of the team after they participated in the local version of the March for Our Lives to learn more about the organization.  Like so many, they had founded the effort in the wake of the 2016 election both in reaction to the Trump victory and the inadequate response of established leadership of the local Democratic party and its electeds.  Assembling a group of up to 300 volunteers committed to the campaign, they have constructed an activist base sufficient to poll well in their inaugural efforts when they presented their slate to the voters in local elections.   Their success moved them to form alliances with other organizations in Ohio as well as nationally where they became an affiliate of the Working Families Party and a partner of the Bernie Sanders follow through organization, Our Revolution.

excitement over Nuts & Bolts in Columbus

Most of our conversation about the future concerned the chances to put an initiative on the ballot to change the at-large district governance system in the city to a district form or a combination of district and at-large seats that would give citizens of Columbus a stronger and clearer voice in local affairs.  We talked about the nuts and bolts of such efforts since ACORN has waged several successful fights along these lines including in Little Rock over the years.  In Columbus only 8000 valid voter’s signatures would be required with a full year to gather them, which should be within the capacity of Yes, We Can Columbus itself, but the organization wisely wants to also help build a larger coalition dedicated to progressive political action in the area.  Worth watching for sure!

interviewing and video at WGRN with Bob Fitrakis

Talking to Bob Fitrakis and Suzanne Patzer it was also clear that the Greens are something more than the color of grass in Columbus and Ohio as well and are regularly putting up a slate of candidates, including Bob himself who polled 35,000 votes in a losing race to become the prosecuting attorney.   One of his law partners is running for Governor as well.  Never say never in Ohio because not only is Richard Cordray, a former state attorney general and most recently the first director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau on the federal level, running for governor as well, but so is former Cleveland mayor and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.

All of this anger and activity will move the needle in Ohio, so we need to all stay tuned and support these initiatives and experiments.

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