Ronan Farrow Daily   |  March 03, 2014

Early voting under fierce debate in Ohio

Chairman of the Ohio Republican Party Matt Borges and Chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party Chris Redfern speak to Ronan Farrow about their state’s recent changes to early voting times.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> welcome back. every week here on " ronan farrow daily" we'll turn to you to help report on a story and hopefully push it forward. that is our call to action . this week, we're focusing on a fundamental democratic value, the right to vote as we gear up for an election year. that right is facing a fierce debate and significant changes all across the country. start out there some good news in the first three weeks of the year, 31 states introduce bills that would actually expand access to voting. but 19 states introduce laws that would restrict access, ranging from stricter voter i.d. laws to limits on mailing ballots and when you can vote. today we start with a closer look at ohio making headlines everywhere for changes to practice used in most states, early voting used before election day . the republican secretary of state in ohio , cut early voting on weekday evenings and sundays, two times heavily used by minority voters. they are calling this voter suppression and defenders say it could save the state millions of dollars. joining me to weigh in on all of this is matt bornlg is, why does the ohio legislature , which is led by republicans, such as yourself, feel this change is necessary?

>> well, first of all, republicans created early voting in ohio with over the objections of every single democrat, including the chairman of the ohio democratic party when it was created in 2005 . all of the democrats voted no. so if there were -- the democrats had gotten their way in 2005 we wouldn't be having a discussion about what hours folks can vote early in ohio . it's been a remarkably hip critical to listen to democrats complain about the fact that we've got 28 days to vote in ohio and i don't see how that's suppressing anyone's right to vote --

>> what changed?

>> there's been a recommendation that's been made to the legislature from the association of ohio elections officials bipartisan group, republicans and democrats who administer these at the local level. one of the changes they suggested was voted on and passed by the democrats in 2009 and now all of a sudden some of these very same folks, in fact the woman who sponsored that bill in 2009 , crying foul so really don't listen to any of the democrat talking points on this issue. it's been republicans who have expanded access to voting across ohio and we've had to fight the democrats every single step of the way, including right now their candidate for governor who is filing a lawsuit to try to prevent access to absentee applications for voters in 85 of ohio 's 88 counties. i don't see how that is in any way doing what we ought to be doing, trying to get more people involved in the process --

>> let's talk to democratic voices in a little bit. but first, let's really give a fair shake to this argument that you're advancing, how many money do you think will be saved statewide?

>> i can tell you this was a recommendation that came from the elections officials because their cost in some instances have almost doubled to administer these elections and staff these polling places and early voting locations and you know, having government offices open on weekends is an unusual thing. try to go to the post office on a weekend or visit your congressman's office on a sunday. they are almost never open. having to pay folks overtime all of this burden falls on the local elections officials. they are the ones who came to uts and to the secretary of state sean legislature and asked for some relief. it is in fact their recommendations bipartisan, republicans and democrats who have made this recommendation that's been enacted.

>> there's real economic stakes here. we've got to go shortly, but very quickly, you don't feel this disproportionately affects min orts.

>> i don't see how anyone could claim -- first of all right now in ohio we mail an absentee application to every vej tered voter in ohio . you have 28 days to vote, doesn't matter if it's sundays or midnight on sunday. you can mail it in or you can go to your polling places in person and vote for 28 days . i don't know who's is being suppressed and a lot of other states like michigan and pennsylvania, you only have one day to vote. in ohio you have 28.

>> thank you. appreciate you joining ugs here.

>> thanks for having me.

>> i'm joined by chris red ford, the chairman of the ohio democratic party , chairman thank you so much for joining us as well. why do you think democrats are disproportionately affected by a change like this?

>> any time the franchise is opened up for more of us in ohio and other states, more democrats will vote, whether it's the sunday before the election day , whether it's the 35 days of early vote that we had on the books for several years, that was widely em brazed by elections officials and candidates and of course by voters. it's really important to point out in 2005 when my republican friends passed a law, they didn't fund that law. we had early vote but we didn't have the mechanisms to provide resources to county boards of elections in rural counties, 88 ohio counties , about 75 of them are largely rural counties. early vote presents a budgetary difficulty. it's important to point out, this is not a privilege voting. it is a constitutional right. it's much different than say the speed limit or driving a car. those are privileges. here it's a constitutional right and eliminating the sunday voting period before the election day , 120,000 voters won't be able to vote on that day. my friend the republican chairman of the state of ohio would rather us have voting between 8:00 and 4:00 on weekdays. that goes to the heart of this question -- do we have early vote available to all of us or some of us?

>> the democrats as we just heard from counterpart have been threatening legal action over this. have you filed a lawsuit yet and do you defend that step?

>> on this case we have not yet filed. that's forthcoming but we have filed four different lawsuits over the course of the last five years and won every time in federal court . as a lawyer, when you seek to enjoin an action in federal court it's essentially the judge is agreeing on this case the republican party violated the constitution. specifically the equal protection clause . creating two separate classes of people which the republicans have done by eliminating early vote , presents us a constitutional challenge. we will continue to fight this out in the courts and we'll be successful because of it.

>> chris redfern , chairman of the ohio democratic party . thank you for joining us as well sfwl thanks, ronan.

>> to kick off the call to action , we need your help and your take and your eyes and ears on the ground. report back to us on one simple question, what is your number one challenge when it comes to voting sng when you went to the polls last or trying to get to the polls for primary day if you're in one of the states where that's about to happen, what makes it hard for you to get out and exercise that fundamental right of our democracy? is it the hours the polls are open, the distance to your polling station , or is it difficulty in registering in the first place? you can send us your replies twitter and facebook and over e-mail.

>>> just this weekend i traveled to the front lines of the heated governor's race in texas. that's another state where ail lot of action is happening on voter rights and it's where i talked to boij gubernatorial candidates and asked state senator wendy davis about her opponent greg abbott and why she continues to focus on his appearances with ted nugent .

>> what do you say to critics who say it's too much of a side show ?

>> i disagree. we're all responsible for our actions. he has reflected by associating himself with a person like nugent what the values really are.

>> fighting words from wendy davis . you can catch the rest of my one on one interview with her tomorrow at 1:00 p.m . on " ronan farrow daily." tomorrow at 1:00 p.m . on msnbc. but first, we're