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Greene Co. Board of Elections told to reject non-US citizen voting in Yellow Springs

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose ordered the Greene County Board of Elections to reject non-citizen voter registrations and put measures in place to ensure only citizens are allowed to cast their ballot in November.

LaRose made the ruling after voters in the Village of Yellow Springs this spring approved a village ordinance that would allow village residents to register and vote in village elections even if they are not U.S. citizens. In his directive sent to the Greene County Board of Elections on Thursday, LaRose said the measure violates both the U.S. Constitution and the Ohio Constitution.

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“Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any weirder, the village of Yellow Springs forces me as Ohio’s chief elections officer to restate the obvious — only U.S. citizens may vote,” LaRose said.

Passage of Issue 5 in Yellow Springs allows residents who are non-citizens to vote for Yellow Springs local issues and elected officials. The rules were created because of the village’s home-rule authority and granted by the charter.

The issue passed by a margin of 727 to 571, according to unofficial results from the Greene County Board of Elections.

LaRose cited the Ohio Revised Code in his order, saying “While it is true that Ohio’s Constitution confers “home rule” powers on Ohio’s municipalities, those municipalities may only exercise home rule powers “as are not in conflict with the general laws.”

“His comments reflect that he has not done his homework and doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” said Village Council President Brian Housh. “When you look more broadly at other states and municipalities in the U.S., there is this recognition that non-U.S. citizens contribute to our communities and should be involved.”

Housh said he reached out Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to ask DeWine to tell LaRose to “back off”.

“Gov. DeWine and I talk regularly and I respect his perspective,” Housh said. “And I guess it just kind of highlights the conflict of, you know, Republicans are supposed to be about local control. This has occurred with gun control and other things and the reality is, these contradictions pop-up all the time.”

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Thursday’s letter directed the board to prohibit non-citizens from registering to vote, by Aug. 3, and to cancel the voter registrations of any non-citizen residents of Yellow Springs who may have already registered to vote. It also directed the board to prohibit any non-citizen residents in the village from voting on Yellow Springs ballot issues or for Yellow Springs candidates in any election in the village which the Greene County board is administering.

“Incredibly, I’m being put in a position where I need to remind a village here in Ohio that a vote is a sacred right which many have fought and bled to protect — but only a right that is earned by birth or the oath of citizenship,” LaRose said.

Yellow Springs intends to fight the order, though Housh said the village also does not want to incur tax payer dollars in the process. Housh hopes Gov. DeWine steps-in before the issue moves to court.

“When I talked to other people who read and saw his comments, the interpretation is that he thinks this is a slam dunk -- that he’s putting out these sound bites that are going to resonate with his base,” Housh said. ... “I guess what it looks like, if they are really going to pursue this, then I guess it will go to the Ohio Supreme Court.”