Ohio is currently engaged in a partisan war, launched by the GOP, over early voting. To get an idea of what the GOP is thinking here, look no further than Franklin County (Columbus) GOP Chair Doug Preisse, who, in an interview with The Columbus Dispatch, said frankly, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine… Let’s be fair and reasonable.”
Fair and reasonable, indeed: No need to encourage voter turnout, especially for African-Americans. Preisse’s prejudiced stance is astonishing in its openness. It should be seen for what it really is—a window into the mind of many GOP politicians and election board officials.
The ruckus in Ohio is over a year in the making, but more recently it has been Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s (Republican) efforts to to limit early voting in the 2012 presidential elections that lit the firestorm. Husted first attempted to limit early voting in Democratic counties, while not doing the same in GOP counties. Then he buckled and created uniformity across Ohio’s 88 counties, establishing early voting from the dates October 2 to 19, 8 am to 5 pm on weekdays, while expanding hours from 8 am to 7 pm October 22 to November 2. What a chap, huh?
However, Husted refused to allow early voting after 7 pm during the week, on weekends or three days prior to the election, although members of the military—who traditionally vote GOP—would still be allowed to do so.
Husted’s statewide directive, enabled by the GOP-controlled legislature’s Senate Bill 5, is being challenged in court by the Obama administration. At a recent hearing, the Obama campaign filed a legal memo which stated, ”When it comes to the fundamental right to vote, this kind of arbitrary and irrational state action, resulting in unequal access to the ballot box, is a violation of the equal protection clause.”
Here are some numbers to put things in perspective. Early voting in the presidential election of 2008 accounted for 39.7 million or 30% of all votes cast prior to Election Day, November 4, 2008. That is nearly a 50% increase from 2004 when 20% of the electorate opted to vote early instead of endure long lines on election day. Other than suppressing the minority vote, why would the GOP attempt to limit early voting? Statistically, they would stand to benefit from it as well, wouldn’t they?
The answer proffered by the Ohio GOP is costs. They claim that aside from uniformity, they are only interested in reducing costs to municipalities. Ah, yes, there shouldn’t be an undue financial burden placed on municipalities for, of all things, ensuring the right to vote.
Apparently even the right to vote falls under the GOP’s axe of austerity. Look for Doug Preisse to become a rising star in the GOP ranks.