Our Position

Written Testimony on Ohio HB No. 294

TO: Members of the Oversight Committee, Ohio House of Representatives


My name is Tammy Bennett and I am testifying on behalf of EquaSion, a Cincinnati-based, non partisan civic organization that involves more than 30 faith traditions representing 14 world religions in its efforts to promote inclusion, equity and justice for all. I serve on EquaSion’s board of directors.

I am testifying against HB 294 primarily for the reasons set forth below.

On November 2, 2020, Ohio’s Secretary of State LaRose stated that the estimated 3.4 million Ohioans who voted early by absentee ballot or in person shattered previous records. Now, if passed, rather than to improve upon this success and continue to expand access and modern conveniences to eligible Ohio voters, the overall effect of HB 294 would restrict access to this fundamental right. While the bill provides some positive, constructive provisions, in totality it disproportionately limits voting access for Black and Brown communities.

Here are a few of the provisions that significantly harm Black and Brown communities along with the elderly, disabled and impoverished.

HB 294 codifies a 2020 restriction limiting the number of ballot drop boxes to one per county located only at the Board of Elections. This means that larger, more diverse urban counties are limited in the number of ballots that can be collected via drop box. There is a lack of known, verifiable security or integrity risk posed by ballot drop boxes. Further, HB 294 reduces the number of days the drop boxes are available from 30 to 10. Reducing the number of early voting days does not preserve, expand and/or modernize voting access rather such provisions restrict Ohioans’ from exercising their fundamental right.

In addition to reducing ballot drop box availability, the bill also reduces the number of early voting days and hours. Significantly, the bill eliminates one of the most popular early votes days, the Monday before Election Day. It does so in spite of a record setting turnout in 2020 and with high voter turnout in prior years on this date. The legislative purpose behind the cancellation is to prepare for Election Day. This rationale does not pass muster. Preparation for an event should not take precedent over active participation in the event. Here, the bill contemplates preparation is more important than actually allowing citizens to cast their votes. Again, every provision in a bill proposing to modernize the voting process ought to expand opportunities not restrict them.

According to the Secretary of State’s website, in 2020, Ohioans submitted nearly 3.8 million applications for absentee ballots. Following this record success in 2020, HB 294 attempts to restrict the number of absentee ballots by moving the deadline up seven days, which serves no apparent purpose other than to limit the number of absentee ballots.

Additionally, other provisions of the bill further restrict Ohioans’ access to vote, including, by the way of example, requiring two forms of voter ID for registration and limiting the existing ability of the Ohio Secretary of State to prepay postage on election mail.

Even assuming, for the sake of an argument, that the bill is well-intended, its passage would disproportionately harm Black and Brown communities and negatively affect equity work. Its passage would deepen injustices by restricting the “vote-voice” of historically marginalized groups rather than promote racial equity and end systemic injustices.

In closing, I urge you to reject HB 294 in its present form and at the very least delete from its provisions those proposals that restrict voter access and are detrimental to the civic participation of our minority communities.

Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully submitted:
Tammy Bennett, Attorney at Law, Member, Board of Directors
9830 Tollgate Lane, Cincinnati, OH 45242; (513) 806-9650


April 2021 Newsletter


February 2021 Newsletter

Our Position

Racial Incident in West Chester

To: Ann Becker, Trustee and Chair
Lee Wong, Trustee
Mark Welch, Trustee
Larry Burks, Township Administrator
Bruce Jones, Fiscal Officer

West Chester Township, Ohio

Honorable Trustees, Mr. Burks, and Mr. Jones:

We are writing to you about the incident of racism that occurred this week (11/20/20) at the home of Brian and Mia Harlan, 7737 Barret Road in West Chester. In a brash and threatening act, an anonymous hate letter was hand delivered to the Harlan’s home warning them to remove the Biden/Harris and Black Lives Matter signage on their property or face the consequences. The letter states, in part, “…this is West Chester, not Avondale, so keep your murderer types out of here… it was peaceful at one time, and if those (expletive) signs aint’ (sic) gone you are gonna be.”

View the Hate Letter

This is simply not the West Chester we know and love. We know this community as a diverse, progressive and welcoming suburb. As proud residents of West Chester, we also represent the Cincinnati Regional Coalition Against Hate, and EquaSion, a non-partisan civic organization founded upon interfaith dialogue that fosters greater understanding and respect for all people in our region. On their behalf, we have reached out to support the Harlans.

We know that West Chester Police immediately responded and are investigating this hate incident. While the Harlans have expressed their gratitude to the police, they have conveyed their understandable feelings of fear and stress from this terrible incident. No one should be made to feel fear in their homes or unwelcome in their community.

We respectfully ask you, our Trustees, to stand up and speak out. We believe it would be most meaningful for this victimized family – and this community – to be reassured by our public leadership that hate behavior is not only uncharacteristic of West Chester, but altogether unwelcome. Your involvement and exercise of leadership in this matter would send a strong message to those who would promote hate in our community.

We share the belief that one can only remove evil with good and can only remove hate with love. Let us be accountable to and for one another, and let us become more engaged in working together for the dignity and well-being of all of our neighbors. In short, let us come together as a caring community should!

We welcome your response. If there is anything EquaSion can do to assist you, please let us know. Thank you for your attention to this critical issue.


Jaipal Singh & Aasees Kaur
6425 Gem Stone Dr,
Liberty Township, 45044

Jan Armstong Cobb & Barry Cobb
9881 Bolingbroke Drive
West Chester 45241


October 2020 Newsletter

Our Position

Voter Intimidation Incident

EquaSion response to voter intimidation incident, Hamilton County Board of Elections

TO: Gwen McFarlin, Chair; Alex M. Triantafilou, Board Member; Caleb Faux, Board Member; Charles H. Gerhardt III, Board Member; Sherry L. Poland, Director of Elections; Hamilton County Board of Elections

The reports of voter intimidation by those exercising their right of free speech are beyond concerning—they are disturbing. For Board of Elections officials to say they “are reviewing (measures being taken to ensure voters are not harassed)” speaks perhaps to the absence of a plan or a lack of training of poll workers and poll observers to identify, intervene, and diffuse situations that interfere with any voter, per Ohio law.

EquaSion stands with the Cincinnati NAACP, the Cincinnati Regional Coalition Against Hate, and others condemning any and all evidence of voter harassment during this election cycle.

Right now: EquaSion will step forward immediately to offer clergy monitors to serve as a calming force at the polls on Election Day, Nov. 3. Further, members of our multi-faith organization will answer the call for in-person orientation of poll workers and poll observers to prepare them to constructively intervene in potential acts of voter intimidation. Thank you.


September 2020 Newsletter


August 2020 Newsletter


July 2020 Newsletter


June 2020 Newsletter