In 2004, Ohio was the poster child for voter suppression. Secretary of State Ken Blackwell wowed America with his tactics. Refusing voter registrations because they were on the wrong weight paper; machine shortages in Democratic (read urban) precincts. Blackwell played fast and loose with provisional ballot procedures by narrowly interpreting law to exclude those who went to the wrong polling place, only issuing ballots to people who have recently moved, or other exclusive reasons not to permit a vote.
In short, Ohio was ground zero of hinky election practices.
- People stood in the cold November rain for hours to try to vote. Many, due to jobs, child care or health had to abandon exercising their franchise.
- There were questions about the machines, their security and deployment that were never answered.
- Blackwell hindered the recount and Ohio eventually went to G.W.Bush.
Many people — back then and now — believe that election was stolen.
In 2006, Democrats took every statewide office in Ohio following Bob Taft’s legal problems, poor performance and Blackwell’s disastrous gubernatorial campaign. Jennifer Brunner, as Ohio’s new Secretary of State, the democrat-controlled Legislature and Democrat Governor moved to restore faith in the way Ohio ran elections after that 2004 debacle. Early voting was instituted — nights and weekends, including Sundays; there was a period where one could register and vote the same day; uniform procedures for counting votes and issuing provisional ballots were instituted. Secretary Brunner is credited with the 2008 elections running smoothly in stark contrast to 2004.
Then came 2010 and the GOP/Tea Party wave that retook all the statewide offices, the Governorship and the legislature.
2010 was a perfect storm of well financed zealots running, with Dems underestimating the Tea Party threat and the Unicorn wing of the Democratic Party staying home in anger over perceived failures of the President and Congress to reshape America in eighteen months.
Thus, Secretary Brunner was replaced with Jon Husted, who quickly moved to the fore of the GOP-led attempt to keep anyone not Republican from voting.
In the run up to the 2012 election, Secretary Husted and the circus Legislature felt it was in the interest of Ohio voters and Mitt Romney to undo what was instituted following the black eye we received under Blackwell. The Legislature replaced the laws and Husted wrote the rules to implement those laws. Husted subsequently cut early voting hours in Democratic-leaning areas and expanded them in GOP-leaning areas by casting the tie-breaking vote in deadlocked County Election Boards. Husted also stopped early voting during the three days prior to Election Day.
At the last minute, right before the 2012 election, Secretary Husted changed the rules on provisional ballots. It put the burden on the voter to not make any mistakes even though the poll worker is supposed to review the form of ID used. Any small mistake by the voter resulted in the provisional ballot being tossed.
Needless to say, those affected by Husted’s machinations were not amused by these shenanigans — they went to court.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) lost every challenge brought by Husted’s actions. Husted’s policies were hammered by two different Federal judges.
Judge Peter Economus ordered Husted to restore the three early voting days, but Husted ignored the ruling and ordered the County Boards to do the same. That action tends to annoy the judiciary. What kind of advice did Ohio’s AG give to Ohio’s SecState? Judge Economus ordered Husted to appear before him and explain himself. Secretary of State Husted backed down and complied. Of course the AG appealed. He always does.
The SCOTUS that gutted the Voting Rights Act refused to hear the appeal. Maybe some things are a step too far.
Following Husted’s changing of the rules on provisional ballots after 7:00 pm on the Friday before the election, that suit arrived before Judge Algernon Marbley again. Marbley had previously worked out a deal to put the burden of the accuracy of the provisional ballot on the State and the poll worker. Thus, if a voter made a mistake, the ballot would count. Husted’s last second end-around sent the jurist into a rage.
Marbley berated the attorney for the State over the actual law and questioned why the move was needed or even permitted. He was incensed by the inability of the State’s attorney to explain the reasoning of Secretary Husted. Marbley angrily issued an injunction keeping the rules from taking effect.
Of course the AG appealed. He always does.
The 2012 election went on basically under the rules that made 2008 so smooth.
Not one to rest on his laurels after his busy first two years in office, Jon Husted and the clowncollege Legislature doubled down to keep those pesky Democrats from disrupting the regime by actually voting.
- New laws were passed concerning ID.
- Early days were again cut.
- Only the Secretary of State could mail out absentee ballots, if the legislature approved the money.
- The “Golden Week” when one could register and vote the same day was eliminated.
- In the name of uniformity, (echoes of ’12) set extended voting hours on weekdays and the two Saturdays prior to Election Day. Sunday voting vanished.
As usual, Husted notes he is bound by laws passed by the legislature. Laws that were the result of his proposals over the years.
Once again, those affected sued.
And once again, Husted was slapped down by Judge Marbley who ruled that Ohio cannot eliminate early voting on the three days before the election.
Husted, putting on a brave face, called it a victory for uniformity.
Then Judge Economus kneed Husted in the groin by ruling that Ohio’s early voting cuts and the axing of same day registration violated the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. He issued an injunction to prevent these actions and ordered a second Sunday added.
The Secretary and AG are going to appeal. They always do.
Re-electing Jon Husted will only enable him to continue to try to keep non-Republicans from voting. He will only become more strident as he searches for a winning approach, so vote while you can.
As it stands, the only thing protecting the right to vote in Ohio is the Federal judiciary.
We have become Mississippi or Alabama.
If we don’t reject Husted’s policies, we will be silenced at the polls and the morphing of Ohio into the mindset of the Old Confederacy will be complete.