One of the biggest – if not THE biggest – stories of this election cycle is the efforts of Republicans to make voting more difficult.
Nationally, courts have struck down Republican attempts to restrict voting in Texas, South Carolina, and Texas.
Here in Ohio, a federal court just struck down the efforts of Ohio Republicans to eliminate in-person voting on the last three days before the election for most voters.
Last week, John Husted published an Op-Ed in a number of Ohio newspapers – including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Dayton Daily News, and Columbus Dispatch. In his article, he says:
“I am proud of the steps we are taking in each of the state’s 88 counties to ensure busy schedules won’t keep hardworking Ohioans from participating.”
Which brings to mind the famous ending of Blazing Saddles:
Bart: My work here is done. I’m needed elsewhere now. I’m needed wherever outlaws rule the West, wherever innocent women and children are afraid to walk the streets, wherever a man cannot live in simple dignity, wherever a people cry out for justice.
Crowd: [in unison] BULLSHIT!
Part of our job is to separate the average, every-day, Political Bullshit (the type every politician from both sides of the aisle engage in) from the fine, Grade-A Prime, political Bullshit.
In that spirit, we proudly declare Husted to be presenting some top quality Bullshit. Really good stuff.
We say this for three reasons.
First. Husted mentions that you “can vote any hour of the day and without ever leaving your homes.” This is because every Ohio voter will receive “an official absentee ballot application in the mail.”
Husted even says “You’ll know [the application is OK] by the official Secretary of State seal and because it will have your name and address pre-printed, just as it appears in the voter file.” Husted doesn’t mention that an absentee ballot applications does not need to be on any particular form, much less an “official form” with the seal of the Secretary of State.
What’s worse, Husted fails to mention that he had taken lots of efforts to stop Ohio voters from receiving absentee ballots. Since 2006, a number of Ohio boards of elections, including Cuyahoga, Hamilton and Franklin counties had sent absentee ballot applications to all voters. On August 22, 2011, Husted sent a directive to all counties stopping this process. When Cuyahoga County decided to send out applications from the general county government – not the Board of Elections – Husted originally threatened to prohibit the processing of these applications before backing down.
The evidence suggests that Husted is not in favor of sending out only absentee ballots to all voters, but only agreed to do so when he couldn’t stop some counties from doing this on their own.
Second, Husted took a number of steps to limit early in-person voting in counties where a large number of Democratic votes are expected. Husted had originally voted with Republican boards of elections voters in many urban counties to limit early voting to normal business hours, but voted with Republican board members in several rural counties to establish extended evening and weekend hours were being extended into the evenings and Saturdays.
Husted later ordered uniform, limited, in-person voting hours state wide (no weekends, limited hours after 5:00). He then fired the Democratic Members of the Montgomery County Board of elections because they sought to enact additional, extended, in-person voting hours.
We will just note the irony of Republicans cutting local government funding and then citing county budget woes as a reason to not have extended voting hours.
Third, Husted has said that he will appeal a recent decision from a Federal judge invalidating efforts by the Republican General assembly and Governor Kasich to eliminate in-person voting by most Ohio voters on the three days before an election. If Husted really wanted to make it easier for Ohioans to vote, he would ask the Attorney General to not appeal the decision.
In conclusion, the real tell from Husted is in the conclusion to his article. He says: “my job is to make the voting process for electing those leaders uniform, accessible, fair and secure for all Ohioans.” Note that he doesn’t include making voting “as easy as possible” or “convenient” among his job description.
In the spirit of good government, we offer this unsolicited advice. Husted can – TODAY – take the following steps to make his actions match his rhetoric. We understand his concern for uniform rules statewide (although some lawyers we know think this is a bit overblown). So here is what he can do if he really wants to help make it easier for Ohioans to vote: (1) order every Board of Elections to have extended hours for in-person voting so that people who work 9 to 5 can vote in the evenings or weekends; and (2) ask Attorney General DeWine to not appeal the federal court decision that permits early voting by all Ohio voters on the three days before the election.
Husted already shifted his position to allow greater mailing of absentee ballot applications, so maybe we can have some hope he will come around. That’s what this election is still about, right? Hope.