By The Associated Press
Toledo Blade. October 17, 2023.
Editorial: Voting activity drops
More Ohioans should participate in voting, we agree.
A report from the progressive nonprofit organization Innovation Ohio says Ohio has 2 million unregistered eligible voters. On top of that, there are 700,000 who are registered but who haven’t voted in three straight federal elections.
Election apathy is more pronounced in lower-income communities with more minorities.
In Lucas County, 73 percent of the eligible population are registered to vote, while in Wood County, 85 percent are registered. In Lucas County, 11 percent of the registered voters are inactive, while 8 percent are inactive in Wood County.
To people who vote regularly, any individual’s failure to vote is practically incomprehensible. Voting is how we orient politicians to the policies we support.
Progressives and Democrats accuse Republicans of making it harder for people to vote. They point at Ohio’s 30-day voter registration deadline and the requirement of state identification.
Critics are right that the registration deadline is unduly lengthy. Most states require fewer than 30 days. Many states — including Michigan — allow people to register in person and vote on Election Day.
Ohio should have this policy. The 30-day requirement is an insurmountable barrier for anyone who isn’t registered by that time.
The Plain Dealer. October 20, 2023.
Editorial: Better protections needed for those billed by ‘submetering’ middlemen
Recently, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, guided in part by an Ohio Supreme Court ruling, declined to classify as utilities the submetering industry, which landlords and others hire to do the individual billing for electricity, gas and water for tenants and others in shared-occupant settings. PUCO found that submetering firms are not utilities but agents of landlords.
However, other solutions are needed to ensure consumer protections in an industry that is largely unregulated. Without such protections, the results — as described in a recent article by cleveland.com’s Jake Zuckerman — can be disastrous for tenants and others.
Based on anecdotal evidence, hefty administrative and shared costs for communal areas are sometimes added to bills that can also arrive late, with large late fees already built in. “Submetered” bills may also mean that low-income renters don’t necessarily qualify for the programs intended to help keep essential utilities operating when low-income households run into trouble paying bills.
Nationwide Energy Partners, the submetering firm at the center of the recent PUCO case, provides electricity to about 34,000 Ohioans, including about 1,000 in Greater Cleveland, Zuckerman reported. NEP denies price-gouging, arguing that it provides a useful service to customers by buying power in bulk at discounted rates, and monitoring individual use that can reveal leaks and other consumer concerns.
Still, independent, aggregated data on submetering firms and their operations are virtually impossible to come by because of the lack of regulation.
Also impeding such data-gathering is the Ohio General Assembly’s decision in 2011 to take away the ability of the Ohio Office of Consumers’ Counsel, which represents ratepayers in Ohio, to “operate a telephone call center for consumer complaints” — although lawmakers have since allowed OCC to help consumers who complain in other ways.
There’s one sure way to address this besides lifting that OCC call-center restriction and restoring OCC budget cuts: Regulate the submetering industry locally, statewide and/or nationally. Ohio should also ensure that protections intended to keep the heat and water on for low-income families are preserved, even with submetered bills.