When Republicans wage war against more voters voting, as Ohio’s governor, attorney general, secretary of state and legislature have done repeatedly since they recaptured control of state government in 2010, it’s not news that they failed to extend happy birthday wishes to the Voting Rights Act signed into law in 1965 by President Lyndon Baines Johnson.
In Ohio and other states in the grip of right-wing ideologues who see more voters voting as another sign of the apocalypse, their attempts to fashion one hurdle after another to limit voting through contrived methods have met their match in decisions by federal judges who have ruled the laws are both unacceptable and unconstitutional.
On Saturday, ignorance of the happy birthday date wasn’t lost on Democrats, especially presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. When more voters vote, Democrats generally up their odds of winning competitive elections with Republicans. That scenario is in full display this year, as polling shows only one percent of African-Americans say they will vote for GOP nominee Donald Trump.
On the 51st anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, Mrs. Clinton recognized the historic date in a strong statement defending it.
“Fifty-one years after the Voting Rights Act was signed into law, Americans are now facing the most systematic effort to curtail those rights since the era of Jim Crow,” she said in prepared remarks. “Make no mistake, new voter restriction laws in seventeen states have replaced poll taxes and literacy tests as a thinly veiled attempt to achieve an old objective: disenfranchising African Americans, Latinos, low-income people, young people, and people with disabilities.”
The good news for Democrats, which conveniently turns out to be bad news for Republicans, came last week when a court struck down North Carolina’s voter ID requirement, saying it was designed to ‘target African Americans with almost surgical precision.’ Similar restrictions have recently been overturned in Wisconsin, Texas, Michigan, North Dakota, and Kansas after courts found they were intended to discriminate as well.
“This November, the notion that every American has a voice in shaping our future is at stake,” continued Clinton, adding that Donald Trump supports discriminatory voting restrictions and claims that without them in place, the results of American elections should be questioned. “It’s a dangerous attempt to undermine the legitimacy of our democracy,” she said.
It’s no surprise that Democrats in general and the former secretary of state in particular have a different view. “I believe America is stronger when we expand access to the ballot box, not restrict it. That’s why I’ll fight to repair the Voting Rights Act, expand early voting, and introduce universal, automatic voter registration,” she said.
Clinton ended her happy birthday wishes, saying President Johnson was right when upon signing the Voting Rights Act in 1965 he said “the right to vote ‘is one which no American, true to our principles, can deny.’”
When he was still in the GOP race for president, Ohio’s hard-right governor John Kasich showed just how much he’s not above politics as he claims to be. In a session with the Washington Post editorial board, he was asked his position on voting rights for residents of the District of Columbia. As reported back in April by WaPo reporter Perry Stein, Kasich “didn’t pretend to draw on any constitutional clause or existing law to explain his stance against it.”
Having signed bills in Ohio designed to suppress voting, Ohio’s lame duck governor offered the political reason Republicans use to keep more voters from voting.
“What it really gets down to if you want to be honest is because they know that’s just more votes in the Democratic Party,” Kasich said at his interview session.
More than two years ago, Gov. Kasich signed into law changes to Ohio’s election rules on early voting and handling of absentee ballot applications. A Kasich spokesman at the time said the changes to absentee voting rules will make them more uniform, adding that Ohio’s early voting period is longer than most states.
Democrats called the changes bad, arguing they will make it harder for people to vote and lead to more absentee ballots being discarded due technical errors. Moreover they warned, the people most affected by the changes will be those in urban populations that tend to vote Democratic.
Since the Voting Rights Act became law, 22 cases have reached the Supreme Court.