On February 25th, 2014 Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted released information about voting hours for the November 2014 election. Husted said would not be allowing any early in-person voting during the evenings or on the two days before the election, and he would not be allowing any early voting on Sundays, the day typically used by African-American churches for their Souls to the Polls GOTV efforts.
Two weeks later, in a clear attempt to quiet the ever-growing chorus of critics accusing Husted of intentionally trying to disenfranchise African-American voters, a number of publications around the state published a guest column by Secretary of State Jon Husted titled “Voting Is Easy In Ohio.”
The article made no mention of the restrictions Husted has adopted. Nor did it mention the new restrictions implemented in Senate Bill 238: a reduction in early voting days (down to 29 from 35 last year) and the elimination of “golden week” (when a voter could register and vote on the same day). The bill was signed by Governor Kasich just days before Husted set the new voting hours.
An article appearing at Salon.com yesterday reveals that Husted and his team “showed no interest” in how the changes would impact African-American communities. By reviewing internal emails from Husted’s office, Salon was also able to determine that Husted’s team expressed “a strong preference” for distributing information about the changes, and the guest column, to Republicans and Republican organizations.
Thankfully, others are showing an interest.
On May 1st, the ACLU, League of Women Voters of Ohio and the NAACP, along with a number of African-American churches, filed a federal lawsuit [full pdf document here] against both Husted’s voting hours and against the voting restrictions in SB238.
The lawsuit recognizes that the new voting restrictions “will be felt most keenly among lower-income voters who are predominantly African American.” It also points out that Husted’s directive on voting hours “is the latest in a series of directives that have similarly targeted early in-person voting times and dates disproportionately relied upon by African Americans.”
State Sen. Nina Turner, Husted’s Democratic opponent this fall, has called SB238 and Husted’s directives “voter suppression”. And that’s exactly what they are: voter suppression tactics targeted specifically at African-American voters.
Where I come from, we call that racism.