Ohio Official Standing by Voter Suppression Effort

September 5, 2012

by Jeremy Leaming

In a burst of action, federal courts have provided setbacks to the right’s desperate and disgraceful efforts to suppress the vote, as noted here last week. Hardly surprising is that some of the rightwing lawmakers pushing ridiculous voter ID laws, limits on early voting periods and voter registration drives, are going to fight the federal courts to protect their ignoble campaign.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a loud proponent of Ohio’s efforts to limit early voting opportunities of urban voters, has proclaimed that voting in his state will be “uniform and accessible for hard-working Ohioans.” It’s a statement as laughable as it is disingenuous. Ohio, like Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, has sought to make voting much more difficult for a lot of hard-working residents, primarily those living in urban areas. In Ohio no efforts were made to curtail early-voting for suburban residents.

So when a federal judge recently ruled in favor of the Obama campaign’s legal challenge to Ohio’s restrictions, issuing an injunction against limits on early voting, it was widely received as a much-needed victory against the ongoing campaign to suppress the votes of minorities, low-income people, college students and the elderly.

U.S. District Court Judge Peter Economus held that curtailment of early voting opportunities would close the door to thousands of voters. He added, “Plaintiffs submit statistical studies to support their assertion that low-income and minority voters are disproportionately affected by the elimination of those voting days.” See Ryan J. Reilly’s reporting for TPM on the decision.

Reilly today noted that the Obama administration has lodged a motion with the federal court urging it to ensure that Ohio follow the court order, after Husted said he “wouldn’t set early voting hours until an appeals court” took action. As Reilly reported, the Obama campaign officials argued in their motion that Husted cannot ignore or stay a federal court opinion, a federal appeals court gets to make that call. 

University of Maryland law school professor Sherrilyn A. Ifill in a piece for The Root blasted the Republican Party’s “war on voting,” likening it to the efforts employed by pre-civil rights-era Southern states “to manipulate the voting strength of the electorate.”

The Republican Party, Ifill said, appears to be giving up on persuading voters with their ideas and values. (Granted a lot of the Party’s ideas, values and principles are more than just stale, they are tired, lame, and awfully exclusive.)

So the Party, a minority one as Ifill calls it, is grasping at all means, even ignoble ones, to retain “majority power.” Ifill says the voter suppression effort is not all about race. “Instead it should be seen as part of a larger attack on political participation, with deep historical roots that hark back to the darkest days of American democracy.”

For more on the efforts to suppress the vote, see the ACS Issue Brief by Loyola Law School Professor Justin Levitt, who counters the claim that America’s elections are plagued with voter fraud, and shows why limiting voting opportunities, registration drives and passing onerous voter ID laws are not only poor public policy, but constitutionally suspect.