The president’s Commission on Election Administration held their final public hearing on September 20 in Cincinnati, Ohio, where five independents from Ohio and Kentucky petitioned the commission for a redress of grievances regarding election issues that independents face across the country.
With 40 percent of the electorate registered as independent, it’s not a stretch to say that independents are the largest group of suppressed voters in the country. But, whether or not the commission, tasked with identifying nonpartisan ways to provide better access to the polls for all voters, believes this to be an issue worth their time remains to be seen.
Prior to public presentations, the commission heard presentations from panels of academics, politicians, and election administrators who provided expert testimony on topics such as voter registration, voter information tools, poll lines, and poll workers. Commissioners asked the presenters questions to gain a better understanding of problems and possible solutions.
Independents attempted to engage the commissioners in a similar two-way fashion by requesting permission to invite their own expert, Independentvoting.org President Jackie Salit, to present on their behalf, but were denied such privilege by the commissioners and restricted to testify only during the public comment session.
“Commission co-chairman, Ben Ginsberg, made the independents sit together as a group and make their presentation together as a group, which I think was an effort to marginalize us,” said Rick Robol, the Independent Ohio leader who was first to present. “The commissioner said ‘we have already heard from independents,’ and I agree they have heard from independents, but they haven’t heard independents. It’s time that they start not only hearing from us, but hearing us.”
No questions were asked to the independents who were present, nor were the issues presented by independents acknowledged in any way, according to Robol.
The first step for independents in the effort to regain their constitutional rights is complete. Petitions for a redress of grievances have been presented at election commission hearings across the country, and a letter signed by over 1,000 independents from all 50 states has been presented to the commission.
The commission is now scheduled to present a report of their findings to President Obama in December, and until then, independents won’t know whether their concerns will be addressed.
“If the two parties don’t respond and don’t act in changing the laws to ensure that independent voters are given equal right and protections under the laws, then there will be other steps that independents across the nation will have to consider,” Robol added. “Everything from peaceful demonstrations and further litigation, to voting in a united fashion and voting professional politicians out of office if they don’t work for equal right of independent voters.”