We can all relax a bit now that Secretary of State Jon Husted has given up his lonely quest to restrict early voting hours for the presidential election. After being rebuffed all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, Husted and his partner Ohio Atty. Gen Mike DeWine have finally thrown in the towel and agreed to reinstate early voting on the final 3 days before the election. For a time, it would not have been outrageous to suppose that a fellow with his Republican-driven energy would take the case all the way to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
You want to believe in some semblance of a level playing field at no risk from guys like Husted. Isn’t that the noble American way that we were taught in civics class? But this is indeed a strangely orchestrated political year when the GOP has set out more than ever before to have fiction trump facts with the old Machiavellian ground rules that begins “whatever works” justifies the ginned up end.
It’s worth recalling the long journey that led to Husted ‘s surrender. It began with the GOP’s flimsy narrative that Zombies were stuffing ballot boxes with fraudulent ballots. Although it was quickly shown to be nothing more than game plan hatched in the back channels of Republican policy, the perps continued their search-and-destroy mission for non-existent fraud.
You’d think that they would be so embarrassed by the exposure of their nefarious loose talk that they would have given up. But this was an election year and as some of their own people in Ohio and Pennsylvania stripped away the disguise and admitted the plan was based on electing Mitt Romney.
But these modern Republican chiefs don’t embarrass easily. So Plan 2 was conceived to restrict the early voting hours that would surely benefit the other party. So in this state, Husted, lately named a GOP rising star by the Plain Dealer, grabbed the baton by eliminating the three-day period with the spurious word that he was merely seeking uniformity in voting hours in the 88 counties. Then the Obama Administration filed suit, and Democratic leaders cried foul. But the Republican family immediately accused the Dems of trying to deny the military early voting privileges by opposing Husted. See what I mean?
On Tuesday, he finally caved and directed all of the elections boards to open their doors during the disputed three-day period. They are not the usual longer hours of normal voting days. Though shortened for each day, it will still give him a chance in later days to say he didn’t block the voters that he might need when he’s back on the ballot. Even so, there’s already a lot of early voting in Democrat -rich northern Ohio – some of it inspired by efforts to thumb their nose at Husted. In Cuyahoga County, Nick Martin, the Democratic Party’s executive director, told me Wednesday that the 12,277 walk-in voters so far exceeded the 10,616 on the same date in 2008. And he expected that record number to grow as Election Day nears. In 2008, he says, the early voting period had five extra days. So, “we’re energized”.
The same is true in Summit County, where there were morning lines at the board to vote.
So even if you grant Husted a scintilla of political logic, why in the world would he let his case drag out through one court after another? It didn’t help his political future and continued to stain the GOP as a idea-less party trying to contain an important segment of the American electorate. It makes no sense.