Last July Ohio’s Republicans passed a law (HB224) that would remove early voting on the three days before election day, a time when Democrats, especially African Americans, have overwhelming turned out to vote in previous elections. The goal was clear: limit turnout of Democrats, especially black voters.
Ohio Republican Doug Preisse recently admitted as much, defending the practice saying “we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine”
Obama and the Ohio Democratic Party sued to restore these voting days, and they won. But last week Attorney General Mike DeWine announced he would appeal the decision of the federal judge, and his completely tone-deaf response still surprises me.
The judge ruled the early voting provisions in HB224 were unconstitutional because “thousands of voters who would have voted during those three days will not be able to exercise their right to cast a vote in person.” And he made it very clear that “restoring in-person early voting to all Ohio voters through the Monday before Election Day does not deprive [military] voters from early voting. Instead, and more importantly, it places all Ohio voters on equal standing.”
Still, Mike DeWine plans to challenge the decision and here’s the reason he gave Gongwer:
“Ever since the time of the Civil War we’ve made a distinction in this country… for people in the military versus the rest of us to vote.”
Mike DeWine, Attorney General of Ohio, defends his decision to support a law that was passed specifically to disenfranchise black voters by comparing it to things we’ve done since the Civil War.
So you really have to wonder: does Mike DeWine not remember who else we “made a distinction” for back in 1865?
Before the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote in 1920?
Before the 15th amendment which granted all Americans the right to vote regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude” in 1870?
Back before the 14th amendment and its Equal Protection Clause (ratified in 1868 – 3 years after the civil war ended) that was used as the foundation of the judge’s decision in the Husted/Obama case?
I can’t tell you for sure if military voters in 1965 were given a special exception – but I can tell you this: white men certainly were.
If Mike DeWine’s point is that we need to look back BEFORE all of these important changes to the US Constitution and federal law, back before women and African Americans were able to vote, then I think Mr. DeWine needs to start looking for a new reference point for his appeal.