Today, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Secretary of State Jon Husted announced that he will relent and allow Cuyahoga County mail unsolicited absentee ballot requests (as it’s done for years now) to voters in order to prevent overcrowded lines on election day after an unanimous, bipartisan Cuyahoga County Council passed a resolution authorizing the program.

Husted has tried to justify his opposition to large counties sending out unsolicited absentee ballots by arguing that making it easier for such voters in those counties to vote was “unfair” to other voters who didn’t have the benefit of such programs and that all voters should have an “uniform” standard of how to get an absentee vote.  It was total partisan b.s.  The reason Husted and the Republicans in the legislature oppose  these programs is that it helps the Democratic turnout in elections.  In 2010, 47% of the vote in Cuyahoga County was done by “absentee” mailed ballots.  If it were a demographic that tended to vote Republican, say like overseas military personnel, Husted would take an entirely different approach.

Don’t believe me?  Think this is just partisan sniping?

Then how else do you explain the inherent contradiction pointed out by the Columbus Dispatch in which Husted argued it was “unfair” to make it easier for urban voters to vote absentee because such programs break from “uniformity” while at an event to introduce a special program to make it easier for overseas military personnel to vote absentee.  How easy?

Husted held a news conference yesterday to announce his new Military Ready-to-Vote program, in which Ohio servicemen and women could register to vote and request an absentee ballot for all elections in a calendar year using the same form.

They also will be able to track their absentee ballots electronically through an ID number and receive election reminders via email or social-media sites, such as Facebook, and access voting-related information at OhioMilitaryVotes.com.

Does the Secretary of State remind any other Ohio voter to vote through e-mail and social media?  Nope.  Look, I’m not opposed to making it easier for our uniformed armed service people to vote.  But my point is that you can’t do that for military voters but then suggest all other voters must be treated uniformally different from them.  The exception mocks the rule.

And the idea of “uniformity” while sounding egalitarian and “fair,” on the surface is really an impossible and totally unrealistic and undesireable standard when you think about it.  First, the only thing that should be uniform is that each person gets only one vote.  Beyond that, uniformity is an impossible standard that Ohio doesn’t meet outside of the absentee ballot laws anyways.  Depending on where you live, there is still different methods in how ballots are cast in Ohio.  We don’t even have uniformity in how we vote.

I live within walking distance of my precinct.  Most voters probably do not.  Does that mean that I have an unfair advantage in voting?  No, says the law.

Yet, this is the same bogus argument that lead the Ohio General Assembly to ban the practice of mass absentee ballot requests in our urban counties when it rushed HB 194 into law, which former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and Fair Elections Ohio are leading a referendum effort to repeal (AG Mike DeWine recently certified their ballot language.)  Fair Elections Ohio have until September 29th to get the same number of signatures as We Are Ohio needed to qualify for the ballot and because this issue has not gotten nearly as much as attention as SB 5 (and we’re not blameless in this regard), they really need help getting the necessary signatures, so consider volunteering this month for them.

But is allowing large urban counties the ability to encourage a large segment of their voters to vote early to mitigate large waiting lines on election day fair?  If only there was some method of deciding such a matter… to litigation the issue in say, a court of law, and not the court of political opinion.

Oh, wait.  That totally has already happened.

You see, apparently the entire Ohio media conveniently forgot that in September 2010 a group of four rural Republicans tried challenging Ohio’s absentee ballot laws that permitted large, urban counties (actually any county, but only the largest counties ever elected to do so) from sending out unsolicited absentee ballot requests.

And a federal judge heard their arguments that making it easier for urban voters to cast absentee ballots was so unfair it violated the equal protection and due process clause of the federal constitution.  And the federal judge rejected their claims soundly.  How soundly?  They didn’t appeal and eventually dismissed their suit with no settlement.

US District Court-Southern District of Ohio Ruling

There’s nothing wrong, unconstitutional, unfair, unjust about making it easier for people to vote.  Jon Husted is just wrong morally and legally. 

The  premise of HB 194’s absentee ballot restrictions is based on arguments already laughed out of federal court.

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