Last Friday, Ohio’s Secretary of State Jon Husted took the unprecedented step to preserve his block the black vote directive. He suspended Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie, Sr., two Democratic members of the Montgomery County Board of Elections because they voted to extend in-person voting hours beyond the recently standardized state hours, established by Husted’s directive.
This followed a week of national backlash after Husted decided to deny extra voting hours in Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo and Akron.
Last Wednesday decried that all counties would have to follow the same weekday evening hours, but no weekend hours.
On Friday, Lieberman proposed that a continuation of weekend hours for Montgomery County. The board was deadlocked along party lines and sent the issue to Husted.
Husted responded with an order for the board to meet again and rescind Lieberman’s motion, arguing that the motion was a violation of Husted’s directive. After that meeting was deadlocked, again along party lines, Husted suspended Lieberman and Richie.
They not only broke Ohio elections law with this action, but they violated the principle of uniformity established to create fairness in the way we vote across Ohio,
While they are free to disagree with my decision, they are not free to disobey the law.
Husted started this controversy when he decided to restrict voting hours in Democratic leaning counties, while maintaining previously established hours in Republican leaning counties. What happened to the principle of uniformity when he made that decision?
Granted, after a week of a backlash that spread across the country, Husted re-discovered the principle of uniformity and extended the voting hours restriction to Republican leaning counties as well.
Of the 535,000 early votes cast in 2008, nearly half occurred either after business hours during the week or on weekends. During the hours and days eliminated by Husted’s directive, NOVA estimates that 197,000 votes were cast. That is roughly 3.4% of all statewide votes. To put some perspective on this, in Ohio major elections are decided by a 2% margin.
This is where Husted’s observation that Lieberman and Richie are not free to disobey the law speaks not only to the hypocrisy of Husted and his Republican cohorts, but also to the fact that their policy, by appearance violates the law.
Doug Priesse, the chairman of Franklin County’s board of Elections admitted the real intent of Husted’s directive to restrict voting hours when he said:
I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine,” Doug Priesse said in an email to the Columbus Dispatch Sunday. “Let’s be fair and reasonable.
According to NOVA’s study, African-Americans disproportionately voted early in 2008, meaning Husted’s directive will have a disproportionately negative effect on African-Americans’ ability to exercise their vote in the 2012 election.
Fair and reasonable election policies do not have a disproportionately negative affect on a segment of the eligible voting population.
Moreover, there is a reasonable basis to conclude that Husted’s policies violate 15th amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Image from Republican Elephant