Saturday, August 11, 2012

Voter Suppression Phase Two (Or Is It Three?)

The O’Zone has received a lot of pushback for the attention we have paid to the voter ID law movement sponsored by Republican legislatures across the country.

Court cases in Texas and Pennsylvania have amply demonstrated the total lack of incidents of voter fraud that have been the justification put forth for such laws.

As Jon Stewart has famously put it, it’s now time to move on to addressing the pressing matter of leash laws for unicorns. As for myself, I think we should first legislate and enforce an extraterrestrial registration act. 

The real goal of such laws is to restrict the opportunity of traditionally Democratic groups to exercise their right to vote.

The validity of this point of view has become even more obvious with recent developments in the state of Ohio.

It is widely accepted that there is virtually no scenario, given current polling, where Mitt Romney can win the Presidency without carrying Ohio. This is one of the primary reasons why the political cognoscenti constantly list the popular former Republican Senator from Ohio, Rob Portman, as a leading candidate for the Vice-Presidential spot.

While there has been a pushback against voter ID laws, witness the lawsuits in Texas and Pennsylvania, there has been an effort by Florida and now Iowa to “purge” their voter lists.

But, in the crucial state of Ohio, the voter suppression effort has reached even new heights. Below I am reproducing an article by Ari Melber that appeared in the Nation Magazine a few days ago. There are of course those who will say that this is simply another part of the liberal mainstream media. However, the story is echoed by the Detroit News and as non-liberal a source as Business Week.

If you want to see how intense the Republican effort is to disenfranchise Democratic voters, read this article. I realize at this point that there are those who are impervious to the mounting evidence of this effort to subvert democracy that makes Watergate look like stealing penny candy.

Ari Berman on August 8, 2012 - 11:37 AM ET

On Election Day 2004, long lines and widespread electoral dysfunctional marred the results of the presidential election in Ohio, whose electoral votes ended up handing George W. Bush a second term. “The misallocation of voting machines led to unprecedented long lines that disenfranchised scores, if not hundreds of thousands, of predominantly minority and Democratic voters,” found a post-election report by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee. According to one survey, 174,000 Ohioans, 3 percent of the electorate, left their polling place without voting because of the interminable wait. (Bush won the state by only 118,000 votes).

After 2004, Ohio reformed its electoral process by adding thirty-five days of early voting before Election Day, which led to a much smoother voting experience in 2008. The Obama campaign used this extra time to successfully mobilize its supporters, building a massive lead among early voters than John McCain could not overcome on Election Day.

In response to the 2008 election results, Ohio Republicans drastically curtailed the early voting period in 2012 from thirty-five to eleven days, with no voting on the Sunday before the election, when African-American churches historically rally their congregants to go to the polls. (Ohio was one of five states to cut back on early voting since 2010.) Voting rights activists subsequently gathered enough signatures to block the new voting restrictions and force a referendum on Election Day. In reaction, Ohio Republicans repealed their own bill in the state legislature, but kept a ban on early voting three days before Election Day (a period when 93,000 Ohioans voted in 2008), adding an exception for active duty members of the military, who tend to lean Republican. (The Obama campaign is now challenging the law in court, seeking to expand early voting for all Ohioans).

The Romney campaign has recently captured headlines with its absurd and untrue claim that the Obama campaign is trying to suppress the rights of military voters. The real story from Ohio is how cutbacks to early voting will disproportionately disenfranchise African-American voters in Ohio’s most populous counties. African-Americans, who supported Obama over McCain by 95 points in Ohio, comprise 28 percent of the population of Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County but accounted for 56 percent of early voters in 2008, according to research done by Norman Robbins of the Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates and Mark Salling of Cleveland State University. In Columbus’s Franklin County, African-Americans comprise 20 percent of the population but made up 34 percent of early voters.

Now, in heavily Democratic cities like Cleveland, Columbus, Akron and Toledo, early voting hours will be limited to 8 am until 5 pm on weekdays beginning on October 1, with no voting at night or during the weekend, when it’s most convenient for working people to vote. Republican election commissioners have blocked Democratic efforts to expand early voting hours in these counties, where the board of elections are split equally between Democratic and Republican members. Ohio Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted has broken the tie by intervening on behalf of his fellow Republicans. (According to the Board of Elections, 82% of early voters in Franklin County voted early on nights or weekends, which Republicans have curtailed. The number who voted on nights or weekends was nearly 50% in Cuyahoga County.)

"I cannot create unequal access from one county board to another, and I must also keep in mind resources available to each county,” Husted said in explaining his decision to deny expanded early voting hours in heavily Democratic counties. Yet in solidly Republican counties like Warren and Butler, GOP election commissioners have approved expanded early voting hours on nights and weekends. Noted the Cincinnati Enquirer: “The counties where Husted has joined other Republicans to deny expanded early voting strongly backed then-candidate Barack Obama in 2008, while most of those where the extra hours will stand heavily supported GOP nominee John McCain.” Moreover, budget constraints have not stopped Republican legislators from passing costly voter ID laws across the map since 2010.

The cutbacks in early voting in Ohio are part of a broader push by Republicans to restrict the right to vote for millions of Americans, particularly those who voted for Obama. “The Republicans remember those long lines outside board of elections last time in the evenings and on weekends,” Tim Burke, Democratic Party chairman in Cincinnati’s Hamilton County, told the Enquirer. “The lines were overwhelmingly African-American, and it’s pretty obvious that the people were predominately—very predominately Obama voters. The Republicans don’t want that to happen again. It’s that simple.”

Ohio in 2012 is at risk of heading back to the dark days of 2004. “Voting—America’s most precious right and the foundation for all others—is a fragile civic exercise for many Ohioans,” the Enquirer wrote recently.


  1. Ken maybe I am obtuse but there is a thing called absentee ballots issued in every state in the Union and you can vote early! Imagine that. While Ohio (home of the Diebold voting machines) is well known for voter malfesance, this one eludes me. I would personally worry more about internet voting machines that can be easily rigged, but that's me being crazy. The worry here is that minority voters need 35 days prior to the election to vote? Are you serous? If you want to blast away at disenfranchising voters, look no further than Pete Durant and his BS he pulled last year with the Empower America Tea Baggers. Not only did they harass voters at the polls, but he and his cronies were called on the carpet by the Secretary of State's office for this particular nasty peice of business. But busines as usual for old Pete. If you want to vote you can vote. Don't want to wait? I guess you really did not care all that much. Its simple. Vote on the day we all vote, or absentee ballot vote ahead of time. It's really that easy and solves a bunch of problems. And the next time a cop pulls you over and asks for your ID tell him how disenfranchised you feel.

    1. Bob, as one who has repeatedly complained about unnecessary government over-regulation, how can you try to justify another regulation (voter ID laws) that nobody has been able to show any need for, even in court cases challenging such laws?

  2. Saw this on Reddit today and had to share with the blog:

    It's a Republican leader talking about voter suppression being part of the Republican strategy.

  3. Ken seriously what is the big deal? You have to show an ID for virtually everything these days but something as important as protecting the election process and the Libs lose their minds. Yet you fail to mention in 2000 when 200 of Pete Durants closest friends (all dead I might add) voted in a recall election in my town and according to attorney of record Howard Potash when I wrote the story said, That was merely the tip of the iceberg". Ken it happens and denying it will not make it go away. And how does this disenfranchise voters who can legally vote? Durant's actions in that recall election changed my town politically and it is just getting back on track again. No coincidence that Durant left and things got better. Better start checking under the beds Ken. That's where Romney and Ryan live.


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