What Happens After Election Day aka Why Faking the Moon Landing would have been easier than the “Big Steal”.
For the last 19 years I have been allowed to go behind the curtain of what we do in this country and state to pull together elections. For 14 years I was appointed by my political party as a Board of Elections Observer (or back when we started it was called Challenger) in many types of elections in about 14 Ohio Counties, mostly my own, Lucas for the Ohio Democratic Party and various county parties. And for the last 5 years I have been one of the four members of the Board of Elections.
I can tell you have seen the whole process now and gone through every training our board offers it’s employees and all of the ones the Ohio Secretary of State’s office and the bipartisan Ohio Association of Elections officials have to offer. So I now know more than most humans about how our elections work in Ohio.
And I can tell you that even by the end of next week, December 1, 2023, we won’t be done with all we do to keep elections accurate and secure for the November 7, 2023 General Election and we are already working on the March 19, 2024 Primary Election.
Like many, I used to think that the numbers you see on Election Night were the official count. They are not. There are literally weeks of checks and cross checks that go into our elections after election night. Since a certain presidential candidate and his supporters don’t want to believe he didn’t get the most votes in either General Election he was in, they have created this idea of how the election was stolen from him. Let me tell you that it truly would have been easier in 1969 to 1972 to have faked the moon landings of the Apollo program. Then again, some of the folks who buy the “Big Steal” also believe that we could create special effects decades before that was possible.
So, let me tell you about the procedures on Election Night and after to get us to the final answer and prevent any kind of major games being played. First, understand in Ohio, and in my county, every ballot is a paper ballot. Whether you are voting by absentee ballot, or a fill in the ovals paper ballot when you vote in person, a provisional ballot, or cast your vote on a touch screen, you are voting on paper.
Our touchscreen voting machines are ballot marking devices. Think of them as the world’s most expensive and tested Number Two Pencil’s. They are given a bar code that tells the machine what ballot to give you. BTW, there is no one ballot in an election, save the Special Election of August of 2023. Because of the various lines for different council, state house, state senate, US Congressional, Library, Fire, School, etc district in our county, we have to create dozens to about 1,300 different ballots for those who vote. You then vote and it records each of those votes in writing. You then take the ballot to a scanner where it gets scanned and stored.
Each piece of equipment was checked by a team of at least one Democrat and one Republican and done in a public forum. Every time we decide if a voter’s registration should be done, or a ballot is issued, it’s done with bipartisan teams. Every time we move a ballot, whether the original electronic copy or the paper original, it’s done with bipartisan teams and tamper resistant evidence seals and at some points also delivered under the watchful eye of a bipartisan team and law enforcement. And all along the way, they those seals and evidence protocols are checked and rechecked by a bipartisan team. If we have ballots or counting equipment in a room at our office, you can not get in there without a Democrat and a Republican swiping an electronic key. And we don’t leave ballots lying around without a bipartisan team watching. This last Election Night, our Deputy Director, a good guy and yes a Republican, had to go up a floor and walk almost the length of a very large building to get me. They needed me to come down to the count room, so that at least one Democrat was in with the people doing the counting. Normally our Democratic IT worker would be in there helping, but his wife went into labor that morning. And our Director, a Democrat, needed to step out and do something but couldn’t until I relieved her. I can tell you would trust our GOP employees in that room with my life, but we don’t with a ballot.
Now, there are tales of copied ballots and foreign powers dropping them off on the shores of our country. Let me tell you I can not tell you, nor have I ever been briefed, as to all of the safeguards on the our ballots, but they are standard ones. The paper is unique, so is the ink. There are specific marks we need to identify the ballot. And there are usually multiple sets. One to identify it not only as our ballot from my county, but pretty close to being able to tell it’s your ballot. There are also ones to feed it through our count machines. They have to align perfectly, keep reading for what happens. And a bipartisan team checks them on the way out and in to make sure they’re legit.
Now, not anyone can print a ballot. We have specific companies we can work with. We have our own in house shop certified to do that too, but because of sheer numbers, we sometimes get help with part of the process. Due to a situation too complicated for this post, on one race, in one village, we had to have a special paper ballot. We hired one of those certified printers to help us get that one created. They made a tiny printing error, measured somewhere between 1/32nd to 1/64th of inch. And we had to remake all of those ballots.
When I say remake, bipartisan teams sit down. The one has a new copy of the ballot, the other the original. Both get a serial number that has to match, but has another color so we know which is the original with issues and which is the remake. And we cross check each other and each ballot. So, when you think about that idea of supposedly printed ballots to stuff in ballot boxes, think of this issue and how they would need to get the printing done perfectly, never mind all of the other safeguards.
Now what we get you on Election Night is called the unofficial tally. Over the next several days other ballots will come in that may or may not count. For instance, any absentee ballot that was post marked the day before the election and gets to us in the timeframe, will so long as all of the security items jibe count. But again on each one, a Democrat and Republican have to agree or send it to us the board. The Board is 2 of each party, and unless we can get to a 3-1 or 4-0 vote, they’re not getting counted.
Also, there are some people who have an issue on Election Day. They requested an absentee ballot, but say they didn’t get it. They forgot to bring the required ID, etc. So, what we do is let them vote a provisional ballot. This is a special paper ballot. It gets put into a security envelope. If you fix the issue you had, e.g. you bring in the ID to us afterwards, then a bipartisan team checks to make sure all of the I’s are dotted and the T’s crossed. There some mistakes we as the board can forgive, e.g. you put down your date of birth as the correct month and day, but made the year the date of the election. Those we can forgive. But there are ones we can’t. But again, we need a bipartisan vote of the board to count those. And we don’t get to see how you voted before we decide if those will count or not.
The staff will then open those in bipartisan teams and deal with any issues, e.g. people have some really different ways of marking a ballot. So sometimes they have to bring them to us, and we have to again vote 3-1 or 4-0 to figure out your intent. And then they remake those ballots too to make them scan properly.
At that point, we get the final, official results. That is unless any race is within 0.01% in which case, we do a recount. Don’t think your vote matters. We have, in my five years as a board member, not once but twice had to flip a coin. We had an even tie. One race was a district that crosses three counties. But again, they were tied. And we have to declare a winner before we do a recount. So, we actually flipped a coin to decide the winner. And then do the recount. I am happy to say we managed to get a coin thanks to our Deputy Director, from the year our county was founded, but we really do toss a coin. So, last time, with the Toledo Blade filming it, I flipped it after one of my Republican colleagues decided which one was heads and which tails. I can tell you the recount on both of these races was yet again a tie, in which case the coin flip is what decided the elected official. Now a recount is a manual hand count and recheck of every ballot in select polling places with not one but two bipartisan teams double checking their work. It’s rare it changes an outcome, but it does sway a few votes here and there.
But if you think we’re done, then, if not a single race is tight enough for a recount, or we did the recount, you would be wrong. You see we do this thing called a risk limiting audit. If you want to see a dorky proceeding, come to our certification meeting of an election, they are public. We will receive marching orders from our boss, the Ohio Secretary of State as to what we have to do. Usually we get told one or two statewide races and a number of contested local races, and we pick the later, by drawing names of offices out of a box or hat. Again, alternating Democrat and Republican. We then put every polling place in the county, with what precincts are on it, and how many votes. And we once again randomly draw polling places until we get to 5% or more of the total vote. We draw one more polling place as a backup.
And then bipartisan teams do a recount of those races in those polling places. And we don’t accept an accuracy rate of less than 99.99%. And we do that every time.
So, again, when you hear about any claim of an election being stolen, imagine convincing Democrats and Republicans to work together, against the interests of one of their candidates, and get past those kind of safeguards (and those aren’t even close to all of them) and stealing or adding millions of votes around the country. It would have been easier to fake the Moon Landings and keep that secret for 50 years. BTW, in case you buy that conspiracy theory, three of the Apollo Moon Landings left laser reflector mirrors on the Moon. Got a high powered laser and the instruments to measure a small amount of light bouncing back? You too can hit one and have your signal bounced back. They have done it around the world many times, and even did it on the Big Bang Theory TV Show. To quote an old joke, we were going to fake them, but we hired Stanley Kurbick to direct the show, and he wanted it to be so accurate, it was cheaper to actually do it.
So, please, vote, and do not buy the rants of people who lost an election. The Democracy you save will be your own.
Thirty years ago, on November 8, 1993, my journey to become a lawyer ended, and my practice began. I was sworn in on that day in Columbus in the Ohio Theater. You can get sworn in at the ceremony in Columbus, or in front of another judge. I had the honor of Justice Paul Pfeifer being the one to swear me in. He had just been sworn as a Justice the year before. He served on the court 23 of my 30 years of practice and was generally one of the nicest and fairest judges on there. And in case you think that is because he was my party or sided with me always, wrong on both counts. I got to be one of the attorneys on an appeal that was decided just a month or so later, and well, it didn’t go our way.
In 1986 I had started in college as a business major, but I decided not to be corporate suit and switched to political science. Thinking I would be like one of the characters on the West Wing, a professional political operative. In fact I have certification in running political campaigns, elected officials offices and running a Political Action Committee (PAC). And I did later in life become one too. But at the time of my undergrad training I went through internships at a Congressional Office, at a Mayoral Office, and for a Congressional Campaign. What I noticed was if these people had spouses they were ex spouses. If they had kids, the kids didn’t want them in their lives. I decided having a wife and kids who actually wanted me around was more important, so law school it was.
If you don’t know in most states you have to get an undergraduate degree, a bachelors and then a Juris Doctorate (JD) to practice. A few states allow you to take the bar exam without the JD so long as you work as a paralegal or legal assistant in a law firm for a sufficient time. For me, 7 years of college. Thanks to a scholarship I ONLY had to ring up $55,000 in student loan debt, adjusting for inflation that’s $117,000 today. BTW, the cost of just that JD today from the same school is about $165,000.
I remember being at conference with a bunch of young lawyers, law students and older lawyers the year after I graduated. Our speaker at the time, then a national expert on the practice of law as a business, now my friend, had all of the students and recent grads stand and he asked us to stay standing until he got to the level of student loan debt we owed. When he got into the $100,000's back then, he said to the older attorneys, no they’re not money hungry, there are in debt.
That conference was the biennial Phi Alpha Delta (PAD) Law Fraternity International Convention. PAD is the largest legal organization in the world. It has members in the United States and it’s territories, Canada, and Mexico. By sheer coincidence the day of the founding of PAD. PAD was founded to help a group of potential lawyers who were, after reaching the end of the process being denied a chance to take the test and practice, due to a new requirement. They got a waiver for those already in the process. The group stayed together to help law students and lawyers be better. So If you like the lawyer I became, you can thank them in part.
Thanks to the training of law school, PAD, and my mentors and family, I’ve had an amazing ride so far. I had the chance to appear before the Ohio Supreme Court and a second chair a jury in my first week. I got to take my first workers’ compensation hearings. In my first few years, I got to practice in a variety of different areas of law including trying criminal and traffic cases both adult and juvenile, domestic relations, personal injury, social security disability, zoning and real estate, bankruptcy and probate. And who knew probate would be the one with the most harrowing story, I’ll tell it some other time, but there are guns drawn in it.
I’ve had the chance to appear before planning commissions, municipal courts, common pleas court, district courts of appeals and the Ohio Supreme Court and the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland and Toledo, and the Social Security Office of Hearings and Appeals and the Appeals Counsel.
I was one of the first batch of Ohio State Bar Associations first crop of specialists, in my Ohio Workers’ Compensation law. And thanks to that, appear before dozens of common pleas courts hundreds of times, four district courts of appeals on dozens of occasions, the Ohio Supreme Court 12 times the actual Industrial Commissioners 17 times and District and Staff Hearing Officers over 19,000 times and climbing.
And I had the opportunity to help out teens of thousands of people, from pro bono efforts, thousands and thousands of working people, and even two of our last three presidents. Ok, the last one I was appointed by the party to be one of their lead observers in multiple counties in multiple elections.
And on that professional political operative thing, well I’ve gotten to stand on the floor of a state party convention as a delegate, and pick the Electoral College Elector from my congressional district. To stand on the floor of the Democratic National Convention to scream an enthusiastic second (along with a few thousand other delegates) as we made a belief of my wife and mine a plank in the party’s platform and also to be there, at the courthouse to make sure that belief came to be reality in my county, and even to meet one of the people who made that a reality. And had the honor to serve as a member of my city’s city council, as chair of my county party’s Executive Committee, to serve on the State Party Executive Committee, and on our county board of elections.
And in the legal field, I have had the honor of serving as the Ohio Captain for the Work Injury Law and Advocacy Group, a national organization for attorneys like myself who represent workers in their workers’ compensation claims. I have had the chance to serve as the Workers’ Compensation Section Chair of the now Ohio Association for Justice (OAJ) and on the Board and Executive Committees and as a PAC Board Member. I’ve had the chance to serve as the Workers’ Compensation Committee Vice Chair and Chair of the Toledo Bar Association. And I currently serve on the Ohio State Bar Association’s Workers’ Compensation Governing Council and Committee.
Now, I wouldn’t be here without the help and encouragement of my Mother, who recently left us after 80 years of life. She encouraged me to look at law, to apply myself, to care about others and gave me the financial backing to get through law school, and when the time was right, the money to start my own law firm.
I also want to thank my wife and kids who had my back, put up with my stress, and encouraged me in all of that. Also an amazing team of secretaries, paralegals, law clerks, firm administrators, and fellow attorneys who helped me be a better attorney along the way. And to the teens of thousands of you who have trusted me to help you out over the years.
Finally, I want to give two special thank yous, beyond my wife, mom and kids. First, and to all the teachers out there, this is why you do what you do, my 7th Grade Teacher, Mr. O’Shea. He took me aside (and it was a Catholic school before anyone panics) and said that I had been given a gift from God, the ability to talk to and relate to people from all walks of life, and that was something I needed to make full use of. I think I did Mr. O’Shea.
And the second to Uncle (my Dad’s Brother) and Aunt, who gave me a graduation card in college, that I framed and sits in my office. It’s a poem Success by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and it’s a definition of what it means to have succeeded, and my favorite line is at the end “to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeed”.
As I look around my office at little tokens of thanks that my clients have gotten me, and little symbols of battles won & a few lost, I’ve been told I have. Thank you all for making that possible. Now there is no way I’m going to be around and capable for another 30 years, but I’ll keep up the fight as long as I can help out people who need a voice.
So it’s almost here, one of our favorite days around the office, Election Day. Mind you, Kurt will be a bit tired, and stressed, but we still love the excitement and energy of it.
For years our team has worked to make sure everyone who should get to vote gets to vote by working with Toledo Area Jobs with Justice/Interfaith Worker Justice and their rides to the polls operation 419-VOTE NOW. And helping found and working with the Democratic Promote the Vote/Voter Protection Team. And now we send the boss off to do his board of elections job.
Some people call these Odd Year Elections Off Year Elections. They act as if there aren’t many important issues or candidates as we’re not voting on President, Congress, Governor, the General Assembly, etc. But there are actually more candidates and issues on the ballot save the Presidential primary and party reorganization primaries next year.
In fact, for our readers from Lucas County we’re enclosing the list of all candidates and issues that will appear on the ballot And it’s extensive. We have two statewide issues to vote on Issue One protects a woman’s right to choose would severely restrict limits on abortion. State Issue Two would allow Ohio to join the growing list of states where the recreational use of marijuana would be legal in many circumstances.
Plus there are multiple levies and other questions to vote on. Along with again most cities and villages, mayoral races, city council races, judicial races, and school board positions. These are the people whose day to day decisions effect us the most. So, if you haven’t yet, you should learn about what you’ll be voting on.
If you are a Lucas County voter, go the voter services page of the Lucas County Board of Elections website There you confirm you are registered to vote, where your polling place is (they have to move sometimes) and what candidates and issues will appear on your ballot. In fact you can download a pdf of what your ballot will look like when you go to vote. It really is a great feature.
Now, when you’ve got your mind made up, make your plan to vote. There are three ways you can vote in Ohio, but that last one ends soon. That first one is to request a vote by mail absentee ballot. You don’t have to a reason to vote absentee in our state, but the deadline is almost past on getting a request in. And you can return them by driving them down to your county’s drop box before the end of Election Day. You can mail them, but you a postmark the day before or earlier and they need to arrive no later than a few days post Election Day.
Second way you can vote early in person, although we call those absentee ballots in the technical speak of election administration early absentee, at your county’s Early Vote Center (EVC). All of Ohio’s 88 counties have one. Lucas County’s is located at 3737 W. Sylvania Avenue, not far from Franklin Park Mall. The Entrance is in the back of the building at Entrance C. With this post you find our schedule for early voting in Lucas County but that is the same as all of the other counties.
And the third way is for you to go to your polling place to vote. We are also including a list of what ID you can use to make sure your vote counts. And if you are registered to vote, don’t ever leave without voting a provisional ballot, unless you already voted in this election. The system and the people who run it are far from perfect and mistakes get made. But if you should have your vote count, and vote provisionally, so long as you comply with the law, and fix the issues we say you have, those votes do count to the official tally or outcome.
And for those who don’t know, those numbers we give you are the unofficial tallies. Meaning that they may not be the same when all of the dust settles. The Board of Elections can have a late mail absentee ballot count if it was mailed in time and arrives in time. We can count the provisional ballots that are corrected. So, please be patient. The Board of Elections is staffed by incredible people and their goal, Democrat & Republican alike is to run fair, secure, accurate elections.
Now, if you haven’t already, get out there and vote. The Democracy you save, will be your own.
A Great Coincidence We Can’t Fail to Mention - National Medical Assistants Day & National Paralegal Day - by Kurt
So sometimes there are coincidences that are just too good not to mention. In our practice, in almost every area we practice in, there are two groups of people we can’t live without. And national days to honor them fall two days apart. So you better believe this week’s post is about the two of them, National Medical Assistants Day and National Paralegal Day, or as I call them, the ground troops of the medical-legal system.
National Medical Assistants Day this year falls on October 21st. It is celebrated in the third week of October to give recognition to the professionals who support our doctors and nurses, and in many cases us. The classification covers a variety of professionals who make the medical system work.
Medical Assistant was not a term that was truly defined or honored until the Kansas Medical Assistants Organization in 1955 help found the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). It quickly grew to 15 states. By 1963, it had helped to introduce exams in many states in the United States, creating competencies and standards that transformed the profession and the medical system. In the 1980's the AAMA created Medical Assistants Week to raise awareness about the profession and National Medical Assistants Day.
And their job is not easy. There are over 650,000 members of this profession, the vast majority , three to one, women. And it is growing quickly, with a nearly 20% increase in that number by 2030. They perform many duties in their day including paperwork, collecting medical data from the patient, greeting the patient as they arrive, scheduling appointments, and sometimes even administering medication and injections.
And we frankly couldn’t help our clients without their help on that paperwork aspect especially. Depending on what your medical and financial situation is with an Ohio Workers’ Compensation claim the doctors and other medical providers have to complete Medco-14's C-140's, C-9's, C-30's and Medco-31's while tracking which of these are needed, how to fill them out and who to get them to. And we see what the AAMA says is true, it’s a very demanding job with 32% of people leaving it within the first 1-2 years and only 6% making it eleven years or greater.
Now, besides working with them, and representing many of these skilled people, how do I know so much? Well I’m the Son of one. My Mother was a medical secretary, and later practice manager for several medical practices. So as I have said to several many doctors and medical staffs over the years, I’ve got to be nice to you, my Mom would kick my butt if I didn’t show you the proper respect.
Now, just two days later is National Paralegal Day, October 23rd. When explaining to clients what these professionals do, I us the analogy of medical assistants and nurses, and what they do for doctors is what paralegals do for attorneys. That is do the skilled, hard work, and we get to step in, maybe check some work, and get on to other things.
The terms Legal Assistant and Paralegal are used pretty closely, but in my mind, a paralegal usually handles a bit more complicated legal tasks including drafting legal documents. Legal assistants usually take do more fill in the blank completion, but believe me, we need them both
n 1973, the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) produced a series of seminars and workshops for people who helped lawyers in law offices. Eventually, the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) brought in about 15 other member organizations, established a code of ethics for paralegals and created a task force on credentialing criteria. Today the NFPA is comprised of 50 member organizations and 9,000 individual members.
And I can not operate without skilled legal assistants and paralegals. But I haven’t just had the honor to work with many of them in my 3 decades of doing this. I also got to teach as an adjunct instructor in the paralegal program at Stautzenberger College. I have also been a frequent guest lecturer for the University of Toledo’s program as well. And have had the honor of talking to the members of the Paralegal Association of Northwest Ohio (PANO) about our practice and how their help is vital.
So, what can we do to honor these two groups of professionals. So, whether you are a client, a patient, a lawyer or a nurse or doctor, here’s some ways you can do so:
1. Thank them in person the next time you see one at an office, clinic or hospital.
2. Send flowers or a card or goodies to the office with a thank you.
3. Make sure their bosses know about their good work, I always write and thank doctors and their teams for the hard work they do for our clients and do try to end every assignment to my with a thank you and recognition of them in front of our clients
4. Leave positive reviews online that praise not just the doctors and nurses, or attorneys but the team behind them.
5. Use the hashtag on social media - #MedicalAssistantsRecognitionDay for the amazing Medical Assistants and #NationalParalegalDay for the paralegal and legal assistants who help you out.
And I want to say thank you to every paralegal who has worked for us over the years and a few of the Medical Assistants who make our lives easier her at the Law Offices of Kurt M. Young. And this is in no way an exhaustive list, let me tell you. Over at Dr. Daniel Lollar’s office, Laura makes our clients feel like they are in good hands from the get go, and make sure that whatever we need is ready for our clients’ claims. And Lisa can tell you that as a patient as well. The same is true for Natalie and the team at 1st Choice Chiropractic. Drs. Connie Smith, Tim Trax and Casie Carr provide both excellent care, and get the job done for us on paperwork as well and Kurt can testify to that as a patient from time to time. Paibol and the team at Dr. Nathan Hill’s office deal exclusively with our crazy workers’ compensation system and take on the cases that many doctors run from. Last, but certainly not least is Jason Luginbuhl over at the University of Toledo Medical Center Orthopedics Department. Jason has been there for dozens up dozens of our clients and I can tell you I can’t name an attorney who does what I do that wouldn’t agree with this list.
So to the men & women who take care of us at doctors and lawyers offices’ thank you!
We are coming to the end of Hispanic Heritage Month. It runs from September 15th to October 15th. I can tell you for years I was confused as to why the month didn’t start on the first day and end on the last day of a month. But let me just say it’s not the job of those in a culture that has been treated as less than, to explain it to us who are currently treated better. We have a duty if we’re going to be good allies, friends and neighbors to do that for others So in getting ready to post about this, I did some research, and I want to share the info with you.
There is indeed a very good reason that time frame was selected. The month begins in the Middle of September and ends in the middle of October because so many Central American Countries gained their independence during that month, beginning on September 15 with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua; September 16th is Mexico’s not Cinco De Mayo as some believe; September 18th for the people of Chile; and September 21st for the people of Belize.
According to the US Census Bureau almost 20% of the population are Latinos. Now there some debates about the words Hispanic & Latino. They are the most commonly used words to describe Americans whose ancestry includes Latin American and Caribbean. Some use Latino to describe people with cultural or ancestral ties to Latin America or the Carribean. Others include Black and Indigenous people. Hispanic is usually referring to the connection to Spain or the Spanish language.
Much of the Western US was part of Mexico. And Latinos and Latinas have contributed to our nation going back to serving in the US military back to the Colonial Army & Navy to the Present including Marcelino Serna who was the first Hispanic to win the Distinguished Service Cross as a Marine in WW I to Medal of Honor Recipients like Macario Garica for his service in WW II. We have brought into our culture contributions from Hispanic artists in all forms of the arts. Many people focus on the achievement of Latinos and Latinas in sports as competitors, but they have also contributed to our national past time as coaches and Linda Alvarado was the first woman to own a Major League Baseball Franchise, the Colorado Rockies.
Latinos and Latinas have contributed to our national movements to protect the rights of workers including Dolores Huerta, Cesar Chavez and Northwest Ohio’s own Baldemar Velasquez and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (going to have to name drop twice in one paragraph, Baldemar and is team at FLOC has our firm Administrator Elizabeth “Lisa” Ayala and I come to FLOC headquarters and talk about how our firm stands up for workers and the profession of lawyers and paralegals to their youth organization). Sylvia Rivera was a strong voice to stand up for the LGBTQ community. And our legal system is gifted with many fine attorneys and judges all the way up to Associate Justice Sonya Sotomayor (and I couldn’t resist saying my Law Fraternity Sister who welcomed myself and a group of my fellow Phi Alpha Delta members as members of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States when I was sworn in back in 2014)
If you’ve not seen the contribution of the Hispanic Community’s members to our Television, Movies and even theater, you’re not paying attention. Since the 1970's Cheech Marin has been giving myself and my family a reason to laugh. But he’s also is a huge advocate for all forms of Hispanic involvement in the arts. And he helped open the door for too many amazing Latino and Latina comics to list. Lin Manuel Miranda’s talents are on display as a song-writer, play-write, singer and actor from Broadway’s “In The Heights” set in a predominately Hispanic Neighborhood and his even more widely known smash “Hamilton”. Not as many people known about he has helped guide the music of shows like “Moana” and “Encanto”. And has performed in television shows as himself and as character parts; and in live action movies like “In the Heights”, and “Mary Poppins Returns”.
And forgive me a moment of geeky privilege and drop a relative by marriage into this mix. You only need to hear his most famous character’s name to know who the relative and their Hispanic spouse, “Ricky”. But he was also a talented musician and comedian before Television. But few know about what he helped do to the business of Television and our Pop Culture too. Along with my fourth cousin, his wife Lucille, they founded Desilu Productions. Which they ran together for 12 years until they divorced. Desilu Productions started out as their company to produce their traveling music and comedy shows. But it expanded into movies and TV shows.
Two of their creations have remained pop culture icons to this day. They helped create and protect Mission: Impossible and Star Trek among their over two dozens series with at least one season on air.
And outside of being entertainment entrepreneurs, Hispanic women & men have given us iconic fashion companies like Carolina Herrera and Jennifer Lopez (and you know the music and acting thing) just to name the most well known; Dr. C. David Molina founded Molina Healthcare, Inc. originally as healthcare clinics to serve working families in Southern California and grew in into an over 90 Billion Dollar in revenues Healthcare Company.
And we at the Law Offices of Kurt M. Young want to salute our own, Lisa Ayala. Lisa is the daughter of two amazing immigrants from Mexico. Along with helping run our firm, she has served on the Board of community groups, as a Treasurer for a congressional campaign, but also is not afraid to roll up her sleeves and deliver meals with Mobile Meals. She is a single Mom who raised an amazing Son, and is now, as she calls it Glam ma aka Glamorous Grandma. .
So as this month comes to an end, take a moment to learn about the contributions of Latinos and Latinas. Learn about some of these great Americans, their and others contributions to our culture, our legal system, and more And go and maybe support a Hispanic owned business. And thank you to our clients and neighbors whether they call themselves Hispanic or Latino
International Coffee Day is October 1st. The exact origins of International Coffee Day is unknown according to the Wikipedia. But an event that was first promoted in Japan in 1983 by the All Japan Coffee Association is one of the first references to it. United States "National Coffee Day" was mentioned publicly as early as 2005.The name "International Coffee Day" was first used by the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in October of 2009.
And we at the office are huge fans. Kurt is a huge Biggby Coffee fan, which is a regional chain of coffee shops that has been in business since 1995. It started in Lancing Michigan, It has spread through Michigan and Northwest Ohio, but even he didn’t realize until we picked this article it was now through out those two states and ten others as far south as Florida, West to Idaho, and East to New Jersey and the Carolinas. He loves their frozen, Mocha Mocha Lattes. Then again they are essential a frozen espresso and chocolate shake.
And of course we're all hooked on local roaster Bea's Blend. They offer quality freshly roasted organic, fair-trade coffee roasted here in Toledo. We won't repeat the nickname we have used in the past to describe it quickly to others, but we can tell you that's because of how addictively good it is. And for a substance that does alter your mood and body chemistry, caffeine, it's as healthy as you can get.
We always have some coffee brewed and waiting at the office for our team and if not, a very kind client bought us a Keurig machine that can brew you an individual cup if you visit. Has a huge collection of coffee mugs, with Kurt having a few of his favorites from a local comic, the West Wing and an internship with a Member of Congress years ago. And a few years ago, Kurt bought himself, Lisa and a vendor that helps us help clients training and job search help to get back to work, matching travel coffee mugs with Chaos Coordinator, because butt kicking, multitasking, problem solving miracle worker isn’t a job title, just a description.
Lisa is a huge McDonald’s coffee fan. She performs many roles for our firm, from Administrator to head paralegal. On top of that she does some work for our landlord in helping him run our and other buildings he owns in the area. She loves to stop and get one loaded up with five creams. Despite loving her McDonald’s coffee, and not being Catholic, she has adopted the practice of giving up something she loves for Lent as it’s her McDonald’s coffee.
But this post really isn’t about our favorite coffees, coffee shops or mugs. As a way to tie into International Coffee Day, and get your attention, we started there. But really we wanted to talk about how the insurance and business lobbies have used panic about certain high profile cases to justify moves to limit what injured people get, to make business more profitable.
Over the years certain widely publicized cases have been used to scare the public and limit what injured and disabled people can get. But that’s what they are generally, scare tactics. And worse still, these limits, called generally tort reform, really haven’t resulted in insurance premiums dropping for doctors, small business owners, home and car owners, etc. And for instance Kurt calls the compromise that created workers’ compensation in Ohio as one of the first tort reforms out there, when explaining what workers and employers got out of the creation of our system.
The most famous scare tactic, justification for these limits is the infamous McDonald’s Coffee Case. Let us tell you some facts of the real story, with a heavy assist from our brothers and sister of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association and an article they published on the subject. Many people have heard that a woman placed a cup of McDonald’s coffee between her legs to add things to it in the car and she suffered so small burns and wanted a fortune for it. From that article, here’s some real facts.
Stella Liebeck, 79 years old, was sitting in the passenger seat of her grandson’s car having purchased a cup of McDonald’s coffee. After the car stopped, she tried to hold the cup securely between her knees while removing the lid. However, the cup tipped over, pouring scalding hot coffee onto her. She received third-degree burns over 16 percent of her body, necessitating hospitalization for eight days, whirlpool treatment for debridement of her wounds, skin grafting, scarring, and disability for more than two years.
Despite these extensive injuries, she offered to settle with McDonald’s for $20,000. However, McDonald’s refused to settle. And made her the greedy scapegoat of public relations offensive and fought her to the bitter end on her case.
When all was said at done at the trial, the jury awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages -- reduced to $160,000 because the jury found her 20 percent at fault -- and $2.7 million in punitive damages for McDonald’s callous conduct. (To put this in perspective, McDonald's revenue from coffee sales alone is in excess of $1.3 million a day.) The trial judge reduced the punitive damages to $480,000. Subsequently, the parties entered a post-verdict settlement.
Now you may ask yourself, how could that out of control jury and judge award her anything let alone that much. Well again, read above, they did reduce everything because yes, yes it really isn’t the brightest move ever to put hot coffee between your legs in car that could be moving any second.
But here are some facts, from Stella’s lawyer, S. Reed Morgan, that the jury heard in the evidence presented at trial:
By corporate specifications, McDonald's sells its coffee at 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit;
Coffee at that temperature, if spilled, causes third-degree burns (the skin is burned away down to the muscle/fatty-tissue layer) in two to seven seconds;
Third-degree burns do not heal without skin grafting, debridement and whirlpool treatments that cost tens of thousands of dollars and result in permanent disfigurement, extreme pain and disability of the victim for many months, and in some cases, years
The chairman of the department of mechanical engineering and bio-mechanical engineering at the University of Texas testified that this risk of harm is unacceptable, as did a widely recognized expert on burns, the editor in chief of the leading scholarly publication in the specialty, the Journal of Burn Care and Rehabilitation;
McDonald's admitted that it has known about the risk of serious burns from its scalding hot coffee for more than 10 years -- the risk was brought to its attention through numerous other claims and suits, to no avail;
From 1982 to 1992, McDonald's coffee burned more than 700 people, many receiving severe burns to the genital area, perineum, inner thighs, and buttocks;
Not only men and women, but also children and infants, have been burned by McDonald's scalding hot coffee, in some instances due to inadvertent spillage by McDonald's employees;
At least one woman had coffee dropped in her lap through the service window, causing third-degree burns to her inner thighs and other sensitive areas, which resulted in disability for years;
Witnesses for McDonald's admitted in court that consumers are unaware of the extent of the risk of serious burns from spilled coffee served at McDonald's required temperature;
McDonald's admitted that it did not warn customers of the nature and extent of this risk and could offer no explanation as to why it did not;
McDonald's witnesses testified that it did not intend to turn down the heat -- As one witness put it: “No, there is no current plan to change the procedure that we're using in that regard right now;”
McDonald's admitted that its coffee is “not fit for consumption” when sold because it causes severe scalds if spilled or drunk;
Liebeck's treating physician testified that her injury was one of the worst scald burns he had ever seen.
Moreover, the Shriner’s Burn Institute in Cincinnati had published warnings to the franchise food industry that its members were unnecessarily causing serious scald burns by serving beverages above 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
In refusing to grant a new trial in the case, Judge Robert Scott called McDonald's behavior “callous.” Moreover, “the day after the verdict, the news media documented that coffee at the McDonald's in Albuquerque [where Liebeck was burned] is now sold at 158 degrees. This will cause third-degree burns in about 60 seconds, rather than in two to seven seconds [so that], the margin of safety has been increased as a direct consequence of this verdict.”
When you hear this little tale of danger to small business, property owners, remember the real facts of this case from witness testimony found credible by a judge and jury of people like you. McDonald’s knew of the dangers of their coffee for 10 years before Stella was hurt. They served it at that temperature to make inferior coffee taste better and make more profits. And in the 10 years leading up to that day, over 700 customers and dozens of employees suffered to that same part of the body as Stella. Why? Because we do sometimes put coffee there to mix in our favorite ingredients. And at those temperatures, it’s impossible to get the coffee off you fast enough to prevent burning.
So, the next time you hear the call of tort reform using this case, or others like it, remember, juries are made up of people like you. Politicians by putting limits on what hurt people can prove they deserve to keep profitable insurance companies, who interestingly tend to give big campaign contributions to their favorites in Columbus and Washington. And those costs go somewhere, usually onto all of us as taxes to pay for Medicare, Medicaid, or in higher medical bills for us due to hospitals and doctors not getting properly paid for their work.
If you ever do get hurt on the job or elsewhere by a defective product or careless person, if at work that can even be you, give us a call. Our attorneys have decades of experience helping workers and the disabled get help. They offer free no cost, obligation initial consultations. And if they don’t handle that kind of case, they know a qualified attorney who does. Call us at 419-244-7885 and let us help guide you to the best outcome in bad situation.
In the United States we actually take the time to celebrate the art and impact of comic books on our culture twice every year. The first Saturday in May, comic book stores around the country celebrate Free Comic Book Day. There are special events, special free comic books handed out only in person on that day, sales, and the like. The lines usually end up out the door and down the block throughout the day.
But then there is a second day. National Comic Book Day is September 25th each year. Like many holidays, there is a lot of debate about when they started, who started them. But the why is not that hard. Telling stories with drawn pictures is not new. It was our first way to tell stories as a species. The oldest known cave paintings were drawn over 64,000 years ago.
The first picture and word comic book as a prototype, “The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck” was released in 1842. But it was the 1930's when comic books took off. The first modern comic book was “Famous Funnies” and released in 1933. In 1938, Superman, one of the oldest, still published characters, made his debut.
In 2015, I took a free online class from the Smithsonian about the history of Superheroes and their impact on their culture. I couldn’t resist for many reasons, but the best was one of the instructors was the absolute legend of modern comic books and superheroes, Stan Lee. And believe me, it doesn’t get much better than to hear one of the people who made this form of entertainment a huge deal, with over One Billion Dollars ($1,000,000,000) per year of just book sales. That doesn’t include all of the merchandise, the movies, TV shows and even the impact they have on our culture.
Now, like my parents, I can tell you that academics were not so impressed with the thought of people studying this phenomena seriously. One of our instructors, Michael Uslan, was the first to get a college to offer credit for the study of the origins, mythology & historical foundation and sociological impact of them. He went to at dean at Indiana University to pitch his class idea, mind you he was a student at the time..
He tells a funny story of an academic panel, including the Dean meeting with him and saying, so young man, I hear you are the one who wants us to teach a class about silly, children’s comic books (yeah, Mom and Dad said something similar to me as a kid). Now Dr. Uslan, asked the Dean if he ever read and enjoyed them. The Dean admitted that like many, he loved the stories of Superman in print, old serial movies, and black and white TV shows. But that had nothing to do with history and mythology.
The young student, later professor, had his in. He asked the Dean why he didn’t think that Superman had a mythological and historical origin. The Dean scoffed. So he the Dean, who confessed that he had read many of those comics cover to cover as a kid. So Michael asked him first to not summarize Superman’s origin for those in the room who hadn’t, but to retell in a few sentences the Biblical story of Moses.
The Dean, not getting the setup, explained how an Egyptian Pharaoh had ordered that the first born of any Hebrew be put to death. To protect their child, Moses’ parents placed him in a wicker basket and sent it adrift on the Nile River. An Egyptian couple then found the basket and raised the child as their own. Moses eventually learned about his actual heritage and went on to become a hero to the Hebrews. And got him to admit that was not only religiously significant to the world’s three largest religions, but a mythological and literary work worthy of college study.
Student, now Dr. Uslan went in for the kill. He asked the Dean as succinctly as he did the Moses story, retell Superman’s origin and story arc. The Dean skeptically started that “The planet Krypton was about to explode, and a scientist and his wife placed their infant son into a little rocket ship and sent him to Earth where he was found by the Kents, who raised him as their own son. When he grew up and learned of his true…”, the Dean stopped, it finally hit him. And he quickly said if he could find a professor to teach such a class he would back it. And so the class came into being.
Now, for me, the appeal, I admit I’ve watched more TV shows and movies than read the books, was the old as time themes of good versus evil. But in the TV and Movie universe my favorite hero has no super powers. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) starting with Iron Man and going into the Avengers movie, as it had been in the comic books, SHIELD was an important part of the government dealing suddenly with aliens, super powered humans, etc.
For the movies SHIELD, the Strategic, Homeland Interdiction, Enforcement and Logistics Division (and if you watch Iron Man, Phil Coulson played by actor Clark Gregg, admits it’s a mouthful to say) is the secret (yeah, every vehicle they have has their logo on it, they have a huge headquarters that would make any US Government Agency green with envy, etc so very secret, agency that keeps the public safe and deals with the mess a bunch of super powered good and bad guys would create.
Phil Coulson is a top agent, one of Director Nick Furry’s top agents, most trusted deputies and former partner. But Phil has no super abilities. He’s just a really good guy, who like me lost a very brave Dad at a very young age. Coulson is willing to and does give his life to stop the villains and protect the every day people.
And you’re saying if you’ve lasted so far, so what does that have to do with being a lawyer who represents injured workers and disabled people Kurt? Well many years ago, a former paralegal came into my office, stared at my collection of pop culture items in my book cases and said, that’s a depressing collection of items, why do you have that in there. And I had my Michael Uslan and the Dean moment.
I asked her why she considered particular ones so depressing. I pointed out Rafiki, from the Lion King, the Battlestar Galactica, and Obi Wan Kenobi. Like me, she was a pop culture nut and said, yeah, the warrior, advisor who has to keep things together against long odds in the Lion King, the last space aircraft carrier battling impossible odds to keep the last remaining 50,000 humans in a rag tag fugitive fleet safe, against a more powerful enemy who wants to and should be able to wipe them out, and Obi-Wan Kenobi, one of the last Jedi, protecting the young children, who are the galaxy’s only hope to end an oppressive empire.
She said, yeah, everyone, and others, are the last ones standing. Standing up for people who would otherwise not be able to stand up for themselves, the ones who have to make impossible things happen to, . . . oh, crap, what we do. Bingo I said, and we got it easy helping out injured workers and disabled people in a state and country whose leaders consider them takers, a drain on profits and the rich.
So, yes, I am a proud geek, but in 2015, the whole team had fun helping out that online class. I had to create a new hero and their super villain arch enemy. Mind you my hero is a kind of Captain America knock off made out of a geeky high school teacher whose wife and young child are innocent bystanders who get killed in the first Avengers movie, Battle of New York but joins SHIELD to protect people. Even our Firm Administrator, Lisa got in on the act. I had to create a new hero, and their arch nemesis, using mythological figures. Lisa insisted she got to help design the nemesis, Electrica, based on the goddess Nemesis from Greek mythology, and when she heard she was the one who retaliated against those who commit crimes against the weak, and bring down the ego maniacs a peg or two, we had to name the character in her honor. The cheesy picture of Electrica (where was the new AI drawing programs then? See what 30 seconds on one can do in 2023 below my cheesy one from 2015) below with my certificate for completing the class with a familiar autograph as the bonus for getting that done.
So, join us in taking a break from standing up for those who can’t on Monday, September 25th and celebrate National Comic Book Day. You can check comics & graphic novels out from our amazing Toledo Lucas County Public Library, watch your favorite TV or Movie Superhero, or Super Villain. No judgement, I have a weird soft spot for the anti-heroes like Jack Sparrow, Deadpool, etc. Even though I’m too much of a boy scout, Chris Evans version of Captain America type.
Maybe drop us your favorite heroine, hero or villain in the comments. And until our next post, where we go back to real world stuff, Excelsior! or if you’re a Captain Marvel/Carrol Danvers movie fan - “Higher, further, faster, baby.”
National Boss' Day: Here’s to Good Bosses, and a warning about Bad Ones and "Employment at Will” by Kurt Young
Monday October 16th is National Boss' Day. The creation of National Bosses Day can be traced back to Patricia Bays Haroski, who registered "National Boss' Day" with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1958. She was working as a secretary for State Farm Insurance Company in Deerfield, Illinois for her father, She chose October 16, which was her father's birthday. The purpose was to have a special day in the workplace is to show the appreciation for their bosses and attempt to improve intra-office relationships between managers and their employees.
And I have to say as the “boss” around here, my team has done some very nice things for me on that day. I’ve gotten funny cards, some great food, even some great refreshments and more. But my favorite gift has to be the time at our old office that while I was out of town, the team got together and repainted the one wall of my office the colors of my favorite NFL team. A picture of their handiwork is at the end.
But I didn’t want to just do a, aren’t we bosses cool post. No, part of our job as Attorneys is to educate you about the law. And not to talk about a negative thing on what’s supposed to be a fun day, I can’t tell you how many times in my career I have had to deliver a horrible wake up call to clients about the concept of Employment at Will. So, I decided on the day we celebrate the good bosses, we should also throw out some information about just how bad the boss can be, and it still be 100% legal. And it's far worse in almost all of the Fifty States than you think.
In Ohio and pretty much every state, unless you have a specific employment contract or a collective bargaining agreement, you are an employee at will. Now, that does mean you are allowed in those circumstances to tell the bad boss to take this job and shove it. But that’s not we as lawyers are usually worried about. It’s about people thinking they have protections they just don’t have.
Do you have an employee manual at work, we do. And if you look closely at every well written employee manual around you’re going to find, somewhere they can prove you saw it, a statement that “this is not an employment contract” or some variation of that. What does that mean? Well simply, they can enforce the manual against you and you are expected to follow it. Them, well not so much.
The simplest way to explain Employment at Will is to use the following statement, it means that your boss can fire or demote you for any reason they want, at any time they want, with or without any cause, unless you can prove they violated a specific Federal or State law. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve had to explain to that they don’t have to prove they had a good reason to let you go.
My favorite way to explain that to them involves my friend, colleague and co-counsel Russ Gerney. I would never do what I am about to say because Russ is a friend, a great attorney, and oh wait no truly an employee. He’s what’s called of counsel. Meaning we work together and share fees and responsibilities across our cases. But we also run our own practices. But we will, for the sake of illustration say Russ actually was an employee of mine.
What’s Russ’ horrible sin? Well Russ loves a certain professional football team, about 3 ½ hour drive east from Toledo. He has a picture of their stadium up in his office. They are the bitter divisional rivals of my favorite football team, a 3 hour drive south of Toledo and ditto on the picture of the stadium up in my office. To say our teams don’t like each other is, well an understatement. As someone who represents people who get hurt on the job, while I do enjoy football, I cringe watching this game.
So, let’s say the horrible team from the east beats up on my amazing team from the south on Sunday (and I hate to admit this, but based upon past history, it’s about a 64% chance that is going to happen). I come into work on Monday and fire Russ for being a fan of that team. Can he sue me for “wrongful termination”? Hate to tell you but NO. Liking the wrong football team is not something that is a prohibited reason for firing someone.
Don’t believe me, Google the name John Stone. John was a salesman for a Chicago area car dealership. He was a good salesman per news reports, and never had any write ups. But in 2011, the day after the Packers beat the Bears in the NFC Championship game for the 2010-11 season, on the way to beating (yes I was very happy to be able to say this) Russ’ favorite team in the Super Bowl he committed an unforgivable offense in the eyes of his employer. John went to work wearing his grandfather’s Packers. The dealership spent $20,000 a month to have an advertising relationship with the Bears. His boss demanded he remove the tie, when he didn’t, he was fired.
Now, switching back to Russ, from John who had no legal rights in Illinois for “wrongful termination”, neither would Russ. Ohio is an Employment at Will state. So, Russ couldn’t sue to get his lost wages and job back. If he was otherwise entitled to unemployment, he’d get it, as firing someone for being a fan of another football team, even the Steelers, is not a good reason to let them go. Also the whole Russ’ practice includes unemployment cases and he’s pretty good at it according to our clients.
Worse still, in my area of practice, Ohio Workers’ Compensation, not only is there very minimal protections for workers (I’ll talk about it in a paragraph or so) there was an incentive for firing a worker after a workplace injury. In 1995, the Ohio Supreme Court in State ex rel. Louisiana-Pacific Corp. v. Indus. Comm., 72 Ohio St.3d 401, 403, 650 N.E.2d 469, found that an employee who violated a written work rule was not entitled to be paid for their time off work via Temporary Total Disability Benefits. The employer’s of the state of Ohio, well they got really interested in that really quickly.
I can tell you years ago I was seated a table away from a group of former Justices of the Ohio Supreme Court. They were there to watch an organization I am a leader in, give a lifetime achievement award to one of their fellow justices. And one of them was showing the newsletter of his former law firm, a big, employer’s side firm, with basically a cookbook on how to avoid paying workers’ compensation by Temporary Total by firing an employee. And how they needed to do something about it.
I can’t count how many court cases from the Ohio Supreme Court and various courts of appeals have tried to determine what to do about this. The same is true for the hundreds of Workers’ Compensation Hearings I have attended where this has been argued against our client. But I can tell you that the Louisiana-Pacific case was still considered good law until last year. And it wasn’t the court system that took care of this. The Ohio General Assembly, thanks to the efforts of amazing attorneys on both sides of our practice, finally stepped into this mess and on September 23rd, and tried to wipe the slate clean of all those cases and go back to what we should be considering, if you take away everything else would the allowed conditions in the claim keep the injured worker from doing his former job. I say supposed to, because a compromise short cut in some language is likely going to be something we fight about the meaning of for years to come.
So, yes, even if you’re hurt on the job, they can fire you. Now, the Workers’ Compensation Law does have an exception to Employment at Will not allowing your employer to fire you as retaliation for filing a claim. But the exception, like many is very limited. For instance, for Ninety (90%) of Ohio's employers, you have to beat them to filing a claim before they fire you, so firing you the minute you got hurt, for getting hurt beats that. And you have very short time frames to put them on notice of your intent to sue them and file the lawsuit. And of course you have to prove all of it.
And that’s true about all of these exceptions. They are very technical and limited, e.g. I’m over 45, years old, an employer can’t fire me in favor of a younger person because of my age. But they could most likely get away with hiring me in favor of a younger person, or even someone over 45 as well, because of age.
So what should you do if you’re terminated. Well, first of all, keep your cool. Gather as much information together about who told you what on what dates and anyone who can support you as to being in the right them in the wrong, and contact us. Russ again has a very good track record in helping people navigate the Unemployment compensation systems of Ohio and Pennsylvania.
If you are one of our Workers’ Compensation clients call us right away as we can sometimes get the employer’s legal representatives to reconsider that decision. And we can point you to an excellent colleague who has helped many people finds those exceptions. Call us at 419-244-7885, current client or not, and we can help you figure out what your rights are.
I can tell you after going on thirty years of practice, seeing some of the worst of the worst of employment and workplace injury situations, I still believe that the majority of bosses out there care and deserve a little nod one day out of the year. So here’s to the good ones, my team tells me I am one, and please let us help protect you from the bad ones.
The right to vote is one of the most fundamental of human rights. Nearly half of the world’s nations are considered a Democracy, including ours. But in the US and especially in Ohio, being registered to vote is not automatic. Reasons people give are anything from not wanting to get picked for jury duty, not believing it will make any difference to vote, and for a few, it’s a religious freedom issue as their faith doesn’t allow them to be a part of the Democratic Process.
In 2012, looking growing numbers of unregistered voters and dropping numbers of voters who actually turn, a group of about 2000 civic organizations in the US, including The League of Women Voters, HeadCount, The Bus Federation (currently Alliance for Youth Organizing), Voto Latino, Rock the Vote, and Nonprofit VOTE helped launch the first National Voter Registration Day on September 25, 2012 By 2022, the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), and the National Association of Election Officials (The Election Center) had endorsed National Voter Registration Day.
My commitment and connection to voter rights work started in 2002. I have been active in campaigns and politics since I was 12 or 13. But using my law license and skills to actually protect voting rights started after a pretty great event in 2002. My wife and I welcomed our second child, James, into the world the first Monday that year. Early voting was not a thing yet in Ohio and Cheri knew she couldn’t get out to a polling place the next day and wanted to vote.
I volunteered to call down to the Lucas County Board of Elections to see if there was any way in the world to get her a ballot as it was too late for even absentee. The very kind staff person assured me it was not just possible, that they had teams that would make it happen. I gave them Cheri’s full name, and necessary info, including what hospital room she was in. Within hours a bipartisan team brought my wife a ballot and she voted it in the afternoon, having given birth to James, without pain medications. So you can see, we’ve made voting quite a thing in my family. In fact, James won’t yet forgive us for one thing. If he had been born even 5 ½ hours earlier, he could have voted in his first Presidential Election in 2020. Instead it will be 2024.
In 2004, with two amazing friends and partners we founded the Lucas County Democratic Promote the Vote Team. Since then we have helped recruit, train and deploy hundreds of volunteers to serve as Democratic Party election observers through Lucas County and in a few elections as far out as 18 counties.
Not long afterward, our team at the Law Offices of Kurt M. Young went a step further. Because I have been busy as a voter protection attorney or now Board of Elections member since 2004, we usually don’t have any appointments scheduled in the office. But some friends with a great organization with a great project they have continued to this day.
Toledo Area Jobs with Justice/Interfaith Worker Justice has for years offered free rides to the polls to any voter in Lucas County who asks. If you call 419-VOTE NOW they will schedule a door to door and back again service from where ever you need them to pick you up, take you to your polling place, wait for you to vote and then take you back. And this is for free. Now, while many of them are Democrats like myself their ranks include all political parties and you could show up wearing a t-shirt or button for a candidate or issue they don’t agree with and they would still take you there. Sadly as I rose in the ranks of the Democratic Party they decided they couldn’t do, what we did for years, which is run that phone number out of our office on Election Days, have our staff volunteer (although many of us still do) as drivers, and we do still financially support them as much as we can.
Voting is a use it or lose it right. So, as National Voter Registration Day approaches on September 19th, please go and check your voter registration. Make sure you are registered under your current name, at your current address. You can check it for any county in Ohio and get the paperwork to register, updated your address and more at: https://www.ohiosos.gov/elections/voters/
Of if you are one of our Lucas County voters there is an even better page. Got to
https://www.lucascountyohiovotes.gov/voter-information Now I think that is better not just because I am on the Lucas County Board of Elections, but also because it has features others don’t have. For instance, not only can you check your registration, you can confirm your polling place, you can see a copy of what your ballot would look like printed out so you can research your votes. You can get a list of your elected officials and how to contact them.
And, let me just say you can also sign up to work for the Lucas Count Board of Elections. In big election years we hire hundreds of paid workers to do the intense, multiple month worth of getting the elections ready, but we also hire hundreds upon hundreds more to work on Election Day itself. You can go right on the page where you check your registration and sign up right there. Again these are paid positions with paid training.
So, this Voter Registration Day, take a minute, confirm you’re registered and good to go, and get out there and vote. The Democracy you save will be your own.
Very Few of us who were alive will ever forget where we were the morning of September 11, 2001. For me, it was at my office in Downtown Toledo. The news broke somewhere between when I left a parking garage I parked at a block or so south of my office at a former firm I was a partner in and when I arrived in the office.
I walked into our third floor lobby to our staff huddled around a TV in our large conference room. My office was the first by it. Not long after word broke of the plane hitting the Pentagon a client showed up for his appointment.
He was a World War II veteran and I asked him if he wanted to go forward with our meeting. He asked if I did. I said sure, this was my generation’s Pearl Harbor, but we were safe in Toledo and I couldn’t do anything that minute to help anyone.
Later that day, when we finally got everyone to go home, I joined my wife and my two years and four month old daughter. We watched video after video, but one hit me the most and my wife couldn’t get why it, of all the other horrors of the day, hit me the worst.
A man had a camera and was blocks away when one of the towers collapsed. The wave of ashes and debris blew over him as he ducked under a car. The picture below is of victims covered in that. But it wasn’t the sights of the video, it was the sound. Specifically a piercing chorus of sounds.
I have spent decades now representing injured first responders. Thanks to my position on Toledo City Council, I had the honor of chairing the Public Safety & Criminal Justice Reform Committee of Toledo City Council, and even at an event called Fire Ops 101, got a one day taste of the job. I knew about the emergency locator beacons, being the son and great grand son of volunteer firefighters back then and that the sound was several hundred New York Firefighters in distress all at once. I knew the toll in the those who ran to that danger was going to be staggering.
Within about 24 hours, as I could see the men & women of the 180th Fighter Wing flying a combat air patrol to protect us from any attempt to hit us from Canada, I had an idea what I could do to help. We had a young associate who really wanted to do will and probate work. I am a Navy dependent and but for a really thick set of glasses would have served in the JAG Corps right out of the law school. I therefore new, we were going to be undertaking the most massive deployment of troops in decades. So I contacted the local Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and National Guard units and asked to talk to the JAG officer assigned. As expected, to say they were overwhelmed by the coming task was understatement.
So thanks to a great team of partners, that associate and our support staff, we decided to offer to any local active duty or reserve military personnel a free will and durable power of attorney and discounted ones for their families. And we did hundreds. But within a day of our story hitting local media, firms throughout our area joined us.
A month or so later, I signed up for Trial Lawyers Care, which was started by the now American Association for Justice. Because of the scale of the tragedy of 9-11, with people killed in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia and a web of possible ways to get families help, a clearinghouse was set up with training and insurance to cover us. We would provide free assistance with workers’ compensation claims, social security survivors claims, and eventually claims to funds for those injured on the ground.
That December, my wife and a team from our church got to do something constructive on the ground. She and two others trained as grief counselors went to a church, blocks from Ground Zero in New York and offered prayer and comfort to those working the pile of what was the World Trade Center, the picture with the candle was shot just outside the work area. The team wanted to record and be a little light in that darkness.
Since then, my family and I have been twice to where Flight 93 went down in Shanksville, PA, before our Air National Guard unit, which was drilling and had F-16's ready to launch, could shoot it down. And we visited the Ground Zero Memorial in New York and the Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, VA. If you’ve never gone to them, they are truly holy ground. You can almost feel the energy, not of the horrible evil that cost so many lives that day but of the courage and heroism that saved many more.
As the quote from the Roman poet Virgil on a wall at the memorial in New York says “No Day Shall Erase You From the Memory of Time.”. Today we remember those who died that day and over the years since including 343 firefighters, 23 police officers, 37 Port Authority police officers, who ran to the danger instead of from it. And the more than 2,200 civilians the couldn’t rescue and the 50,000 plus they did.