One Ohio election official said he frankly doesn’t care if the state’s attempt to curtail weekend early voting hours suppresses voting by minority and low-income voters. Meanwhile, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted suspended and will try to fire two county election officials who had the audacity to oppose his voter suppression tactics.
The end of weekend voting will hit minority communities the hardest. For example, many African American churches sponsor “Souls to the Polls” drives on the final election weekend. In 2008, an estimated 93,000 votes were cast in Ohio during just the last three days of early voting that will now be banned, along with other weekend hours.
But Doug Preisse, chairman of the Republican Party in Franklin County who also sits on the county election board, told The Columbus Dispatch:
I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban—read African-American—voter-turnout machine.
When asked if that was unfair to voters, as many have charged, Preisse called that “Bullshit. Quote me!”
On Friday, Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie Sr., members of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, made motion to continue weekend voting hours in response to Husted’s earlier directive ending weekend early voting across the state. First Husted ordered the pair to rescind the motion. They refused.
But then he took the unprecedented step in suspending Lieberman and Ritchie. Lieberman told the Dayton Daily News:
I believe that this is so critical to our freedom in America, and to individual rights to vote, that I am doing what I think is right, and I cannot vote to rescind this motion. In 10 years, I’ve never received a threat that if I don’t do what they want me to do, I could be fired. I find this reprehensible.
Ritchie said Husted’s action is part of a “continued attempt to suppress Americans from exercising their right to vote.”
Ohio AFL-CIO is protesting outside Husted's office today. They will march from Husted's office to the Franklin County Board of Elections for its meeting at 3 p.m. For more photos of the protest and updates, visit Ohio AFL-CIO's Facebook page here.
A federal judge last week blocked Florida’s move to restrict early voting. But a Pennsylvania judge upheld that state’s voter suppression law that Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R) said “is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”
Overall, 16 states have passed restrictive voting laws. At least 180 bills restricting voting have been introduced in 41 state legislatures since the beginning of 2011, after the 2010 elections shifted control of 20 state legislative houses from Democrat to Republican. Thirty-four states introduced voter ID requirements that would effectively disenfranchise more than 21 million eligible voters who don’t have the required IDs—mostly people of color, low-income voters, students, seniors and people with disabilities.
The AFL-CIO My Vote, My Right website offers hands-on information on voter registration, voter ID laws and steps to take to protect your right to vote on Election Day. Find out what you need to know to make sure your vote counts this year. Get information on voter registration, your voting rights by state and more at the AFL-CIO’s MyVoteMyRight.org.