A day before early voting was to begin in Ohio, a 5-4 split court stops lower court rulings from going into effect that allowed for more extensive early voting in the Buckeye state.
WASHINGTON — A day before early voting was due to begin in Ohio, the Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, stopped it before it began.
Although early voting will still happen in Ohio, the state’s NAACP had sued to stop a new state law and an associated order from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted that restrict early voting in the state from going into effect.
The group won at the trial court and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, but, on Monday afternoon, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of this past week’s order from the 6th Circuit — putting the new rules back into effect.
The court’s more liberal members — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan — would have denied the state’s request for a stay.
Source: Chris Geidner for Buzzfeed News
The ACLU, along with the Ohio chapter of the NAACP, filed a lawsuit on Thursday challenging the state’s new restrictions on early voting.
The ACLU, along with the Ohio chapter of the NAACP, filed a lawsuit on Thursday challenging the state’s new restrictions on early voting. Given the timing, it seems plausible that the suit seeks to block Ohio’s cuts to early voting in time for November’s midterm elections.
Target No. 1 of the suit is Ohio Senate Bill 238, a new 2014 law that eliminated Ohio’s so-called “Golden Week,” of early voting, when voters in the state could previously register to vote and cast a vote at the same time. And there’s another provision challenged in the suit: Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s decision to eliminate Sunday voting, voting hours on the Monday before the election, and evening voting hours, in the name of having more “uniform” voting times across the state.Since minority communities are more likely to take advantage of early and evening voting periods, the suit argues, the new round of restrictions violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
The ACLU explained the complaint in a statement:
In the 2012 election, more than 157,000 Ohioans voted on the days that have now been cut. A disproportionately high percentage of those are low-income voters, many of whom are also African American. Lower-income voters tend to rely on evening and Sunday voting because they cannot take paid time off of work to vote during regular business hours. Single parents need these hours because it’s the only time they can find friends or family who can provide child care. People experiencing homelessness or severe transience rely on the opportunity to register and vote at the same time during the first week of early voting. And among the African-American church community, Sunday voting has become an important cultural tradition.
Sound familiar? It should. Ohio is hardly the first state to eliminate voting hours disproportionately used by minority and low income voters. Wisconsin’s governor just signed a new law that basically means the state only has early voting hours when everyone is at work. These new restrictions are the opposite of what a recent report from the Presidential Commission on Election Administration said states should be doing to ensure that all voters are able to get to the polls. That commission urged states to expand, not eliminate, early voting opportunities. Ohio has tried at least twice since 2011 to eliminate portions of the “Golden Week” voting period. Both times, the state has been forced to reinstate those hours, the ACLU explains.
Overall, the new restrictions on early voting hours nationwide come from Republican-controlled legislatures, justified by the argument that the uniform hours will combat voter fraud. But many, including a federal judge this week, have questioned whether that concern really warrants sweeping restrictions on when and how American citizens can vote. In a decision against Wisconsin’s Voter ID laws, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman wrote that ”a person would have to be insane to commit voter-impersonation fraud,” given the current strict punishments on the books for the crime.
Source: Abby Ohlheiser for The Wire
(Credit: Joe Shlabotnik)They can’t win elections on their ideas, so they’re going to rig them in their favor every way they can.[…]With an enormous number of individuals drifting from outrageous, narrow-minded, classist, racist, and sexist Teabagger concepts, Teapublicans are doing everything in their power to get their numbers up – even if that means asserting outlandish voter ID laws into place, despite their massive defects.These new Voter ID Laws, with ironically a slew of Republicans fumbling behind them, complicate voter locations, dates, voter times and confuses the general election system,deliberately to befuddle the voting structure.
Since 2013, 9 states have approved procedures directly affecting when and how people vote, oddly making voting more problematic for statistically demonstrated voters who don’t vote Republican. Embarrassingly, the same Republicans who claim Democrats are “not upholding the American way of life” and ruining the American dream are simultaneously attempting to sabotage the voting system. Wouldn’t you want to make it easier for individuals to vote properly if you cared about democracy? Not in Teapublamerica.
Some of these severe voter ID laws include obligatory proof of citizenship other than a normal ID card, such as a birth certificate, or passport. Some individuals would find recovering or verifying a birth certificate to be exceptionally difficult, because once it’s lost either due to circumstances such as a natural disaster or simply misplacing the document – it can be a complicated, costly and prolonged process to reclaim another. Particular individuals, mostly elderly voters of color, have even reported never receiving one. Whereas statistically it is the lower-class whom is more likely to either not have either document, or not have the financial means to obtain another.
Laws like these were recently upheld in Kansas and Arizona, and will unquestionably make the voting process more difficult for individuals who could have otherwise flashed a normal ID. Republicans claim this will level out and unify the voting system ( you mean, intentionally lean it more towards your end of the field? ) and the same ID you obtained through your state department, and have used to drive, acquire alcohol and vote so many times before will no longer be sufficient.
Meanwhile in North Carolina, Democrats are fighting feverishly to reverse the nation’s most restrictive voter laws. These laws in specific established rules to make it not just more complicated to prove citizenship, but more complicated for people to register to vote ( usually younger individuals ), cast provisional ballots, vote absentee and reduces the number of early voting days. So, if you have a dreadfully busy schedule, or two jobs and a family like many low income families, good luck getting that vote in early, voting at all or even registering yourself.
In Ohio and Wisconsin, weekend voting, which has statistically been preferred by the working class, black voters and low-income voters was cut drastically by Republicans who demanded the measures were essential, limiting the time that polls are open; how voter friendly.
Wisconsin State Senator Dale Schultz was a rarity of the Republican Party when he disagreed with the measure and claimed that they were “fiddling with mechanics rather than ideas.” He also stated that he felt the legislation was wearisome, “Making it more difficult for people to vote is not a good sign for a party that wants to attract more people.”. Schultz surprisingly voted against the bill.
Jon A. Husted, Ohio Republican Secretary of State however defended the unjust slew of legislations claiming that,“Every voter should have an equal opportunity to vote under the same set of rules.” What an ironic statement, since in February Ohio reduced early voting by one week, placed new restrictions on absentee ballot applications, and also same day registration and voting abilities. However, amidst all of the moves to limit voting ease of access for new and current voters, Husted believes that the laws will somehow aid in the “equal opportunity” to vote.
Overcomplicated registration, voting hours, absentee forms, irregular voting dates, and problematic voter ID systems will undoubtedly prevent some individuals from voting, obstruct the already congested registration and absentee voter process and result in longer lines at already time consuming poll sites.
“They know when they are taking away early voting exactly who it’s affecting,” said Ed FitzGerald, the executive of Cuyahoga County and a Democratic candidate for governor.
Although many of these ridiculous measures will not take place until 2016, Democrats and voting experts alike are concerned about the voting system being convoluted for no reason other than the Republican need to hinder Democratic leaning voters out of the system. While Dems battle over the Affordable Care Act, bogus commercials, advertisements claims and dramatic propaganda funded by Republican donors such as the Koch Brothers over healthcare laws, Republicans are also coming from behind and attacking voter systems themselves.
“What we see here is a total disrespect and disregard for constitutional protections,” stated the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P. and leader of the Moral Mondays movement, which disagrees with voter law changes.
Just last year, central provisions to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in the voting system, were luckily denied by the Supreme Court.What sort of democracy loving individual would want to alter a piece of legislation that prohibits voter discrimination?
The slapped down provisions consisted of Southern Republicans attempting to pass legislation that would allow the “alteration of election laws prior to approval.” Who, other than a sore loser who doesn’t want the American people to be heard, would want to alter election laws without any oversight?
While Republicans claim the harsh voter ID laws are needed to help voter ID fraud, to ” bring greater uniformity to a patchwork election system” and attempt to gain back immense numbers of supporters lost by botching the voting system Democrats have continuously been fighting to make it easier for people to sign up to vote, and cast their votes while even implementing a secure online voting system. These systems have already been effective in California, Colorado and Maryland, while States like Arizona and Kansas attempt to limit voting as much as possible to targeted Republican supporters – very democratic.
As uncompromising conservative candidates belittle people of color, immigrants, women and lower-class individuals, it’s no surprise that in the midst of self-mutilation, Republicans are obviously trying to alter the game with their selfish needs in mind – as always.
The GOP doing the usual voter-suppressing routines.
Ohio voters will no longer be able to take part in early voting on Sundays or weekday nights, according to hours set by Secretary of State Jon Husted.
The AP reports voters will only get two Saturdays to cast early, in-person ballots during the statewide election this fall.
In a release on the “fair and uniform voting hours,” Husted explained the goal of cutting back on opportunities for early voting.
“In 2014, absentee voters will have the option of voting in person for four weeks, or they can vote without ever leaving home by completing the absentee ballot request form we will be sending all voters,” Husted said. “Our goal is to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat and to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity in the voting process no matter which method they choose.”
There’s little doubt that cuts to early voting target blacks disproportionately. In 2008, black voters were 56% of all weekend voters in Cuyahoga County, Ohio’s largest, even though they made up just 28% of the county’s population.
“By completely eliminating Sundays from the early voting schedule, Secretary Husted has effectively quashed successful Souls to the Polls programs that brought voters directly form church to early voting sites,” said Mike Brickner, a spokesman for the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union, in an email.
On the Sunday ahead of the 2012 elections, voters faced extremely long lines at polling locations in Ohio. That year, early voting in the state had been reduced from the five weekends before the election to only the weekend right before Election Day.
See the entire release on the decision here.
Source: The Huffington Post
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R), one of the nation’s most notorious vote suppressors, has agreed to join an error-riddled multi-state voter purge database. The move comes as part of a settlement with voter-suppression groups who sued the state to force it to remove names from its voter rolls.
The Interstate Voter Crosscheck Program aims to make sure that voters do not participate in elections in more than one state at a time. More than two dozen states submit their voter registration lists to the system and can check to make sure voters are not also registered in a different state. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), best known for his anti-immigrant efforts, oversees the program. So far, the system has mostly been embraced by Republican officeholders concerned about the largely-mythical problem of “voter fraud.”
But the problem is that the list relies on state lists that are not very accurate and generates a lot of errors. After Virginia joined the system, the state’s board of elections (under then-Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)) sent a list of names to local voter registrars of alleged out-of-state voters. Though the board said it had determined each of the people on the list had registered to vote in a different state since their last voting activity or registration in the Old Dominion, local registrars found that to be often not true. Chesterfield County Registrar Lawrence C. Haake III (R) found a 17 percent error rate in his preliminary review of the list. The voter registrars for the City of Chesapeake, Arlington County, and Fairfax County — three of the ten largest jurisdictions in Virginia — each estimated at least a 9 to 10 percent error rate in the lists they received. Many of the people flagged as out-of-state voters had registered to vote in Virginia more recently than in the other state — and some had moved out of state and later moved back.
The Ohio lawsuit was filed by Judicial Watch and True the Vote . Both groups have been active in fear-mongering on the “voter fraud” issue and have pushed states to take steps to make voting more difficult. Husted, who agreed to the groups’ demands in an out-of-court settlement, spent most of 2012 working to suppress Ohio voter participation by attempting to cut early voting options, supporting partisan legislative gerrymandering, and working tothrow-out legally cast provisional ballots.
Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature is currently considering legislation to make it harder still to vote in the state. Proposals include reducing the number of absentee-voting days by six, preventing newly registered voters from voting the day they register, and requiring voters to present certain types of photo identification when casting a ballot.
And you thought it was over…
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) became the public face of vote suppression this year for his overreaching election directives, which restricted early voting hours and forbid election officials from counting legitimate votes. Though President Obama won the state, Husted has not halted his efforts. With two House races heading to a recount, Husted is now facing accusations that he isillegally tossing provisional ballots. These House races will determine whether state Republicans get a super-majority to put constitutional amendments on the ballot without a single Democratic vote.
Besides these possible breaches of federal election law, Husted is also tossing innumerable ballots that were thrown into question by poll worker error through no fault of the voter. A federal judge tried to stop him, declaring “I don’t want to see democracy die in the darkness on my watch.” But the conservative Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay that allowed Husted to throw out these votes.
One of the more stunning developments following President Obama’s re-election has been the number of ardent Republicans who have confessed that they believed the anti-Democratic propaganda from Fox News—and got so much wrong as a result.
The voting rights part of this fact-averse bubble had many dimensions: from who is and isn’t registered to vote, to when and where people wanted to vote, to what a voter must do at the polls to get a ballot, to how voter lists are updated—and who can be trusted to oversee the process.
What follows are 10 lies the Right pedaled during the 2012 campaign. Some GOP partisans, like this Nevada group, are already trying to resurrect some of these fake issues. You can be sure you’ll see more as states and Congress look at 2012’s biggest problems, such as people having to wait hours and hours to vote.
1. Non-Citizen Multitudes On Voter Rolls
Florida’s Tea Party Gov. Rick Scott was the worst offender, falsely claiming that there were 180,000 or more non-citizens listed on Florida’s voter rolls. It turned out that Scott and his hand-picked state election chief found 198 non-citizens among Florida’s 11 million voters before backpedaling from the claim. But other Republican top state election officials, in Colorado, Michigan and New Mexico, made the same claim in 2012 in an attempt to scare off legal non-white voters. This line was picked up by other GOP partisans who bought dozens of billboardsin communities of color in several swing states listing the penalty for illegal voting. The billboards came down after strong protests from civil rights groups.
2. Partisan Election Officials Are Trustworthy
Florida’s Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Ohio Secretary of State John Husted, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and a handful of other Republicans overseeing their state’s elections are only the latest partisans who have abused their constitutional office by tilting voting rules to give an advantage to their party. We saw the same thing in Ohio in 2004, when Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell followed Florida’s Katherine Harris from 2000. Both Republicans made many decisions that hurt Democrats and elected—and then re-elected—George W. Bush.
This conflict of interest is one of the biggest problems with American elections. But there are more fair-minded ways to oversee voting, such as in Wisconsin where an independent board of retired judges runs and referees that state’s elections. And it should be noted that in Florida this year, many county-level election supervisors (who are elected) pushed back on Gov. Scott’s edicts. That’s because they see their job as serving the public rather than being partisan activists.
3. Dead People Are Voting (For Democrats)
This propaganda line came after the Pew Center on the States issued a reportshowing that 1.8 million dead people were on state voter roles. Some in GOP circles went nuts, saying dead people would be voting for Democrats. Some newspapers also ran with the “dead voters” angle, revealing that they have little knowledge of the fact that voter rolls are maintained in an ongoing manner and how local officials take many steps to update their rolls (as people register, move and die).
4. Tougher Voter ID Laws Are Needed
Voter ID laws have been on the books for years. You need to show ID to register to vote. New voters must show an ID to get a ballot. And established voters sign in at the polls (or sign their names on mail-in ballots) under penalty of perjury. But those precedents have not stopped GOP-controlled legislatures from enactingnew laws requiring voters to show a specific form of state photo ID to get a ballot. The GOP’s big rationale is that they’re fighting voter impersonation fraud—the claim someone else is voting under another’s name. Of course, their real agenda is preventing likely Democrats in key cohorts—young people, urban residents without driver’s licenses, poor people, etc—from voting.
What the 2012 election showed was that the biggest perpetuators of fraudulent voter registration schemes were Republicans, notably Nathan Sproul, a political consultant who was hired by several state Republican Parties to register voters. Sproul’s workers had a bad habit of throwing out forms from Democrats. State parties were forced to fire him after police opened investigations. This isn’t to say that there were no cases of Democrats tinkering with registrations. But almost all of the cases reported in 2012 involved the GOP’s consultants or lone actors. No one found registration fraud on a scale affecting thousands of votes, let alone hundreds.
5. Tougher Voter ID Laws Protect Minorities
This absurd line was pedaled by two of the Right’s biggest voting propagandists, former Bush Administration Department of Justice attorney Hans von Spakovsky (now with the Heritage Foundation) and National Review columnist John Fund. They made this claim in their new book, Who’s Counting: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote At Risk, in media commentaries, and at recruiting sessions for right-wing voter vigilante groups that obsess over the specter of illegal voters.
Von Spakovsky said that minority turnout in Georgia went up after it adopted a tougher voter ID law—a claim that handily overlooks how its Latino population has surged in recent years. But more to the point, tougher voter ID laws have given GOP groups a pathway to racially profile voters.
6. Federal Voting Rights Act Is Obsolete
This claim is really outrageous against the backdrop of all the race-based tactics the GOP used to try to defeat President Obama. In lawsuits still unfolding in federal court—and at the U.S. Supreme Court—Republican lawyers are arguing that the U.S. is now a post-racial society, which means that Civil Rights Era laws such as the federal Voting Rights Act are no longer needed.
This year, the two authorities under the Voting Rights Act—Justice Department and a federal appeals court in Washington—found that the new voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina were racially discriminatory, preventing them from taking effect. The Washington court found that Texas’ congressional and state redistricting plan also was discriminatory—and rejected it. And the Justice Department was part of litigation in Florida over that state’s efforts to curb registration drives and limit early voting, all because the GOP-led measures disproportionately would impact those state’s minority voters.
Moreover, while some Republicans in the 16 states that are all or partly regulated by the Voting Rights Act—such as Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott—have led the attack on the Voting Rights Act and accused the Obama Justice Department of rampant partisan manipulation of the law, other Republicans in those same states have proposed changes in election law and procedures that have been approved by the Justice Department. So the GOP dislikes the law when it blocks their agenda but likes it when it doesn’t.
7. Early Voting Is Not Wanted or Needed
This was another absurd claim that was made by top Republican election officials in Florida and Ohio—and was the subject of litigation that, at least in Ohio’scase, lasted until just days before the presidential election. Both Florida and Ohio saw efforts by Republicans, in their legislatures and by their secretaries of state, to limit weekend voting options in the final weeks of the 2012 election. In Ohio, a federal judge was so incensed by Secretary of State John Husted’s intransigence that at one point he ordered Husted to appear in his courtroom to personally explain why he ignored court orders.
In Florida, the GOP-controlled legislature has purposely limited the number of early voting locations—which was also a problem in 2008—and then tried to cut back on the total number of hours of weekend voting in 2012. After litigation led by voting rights groups, the state slightly adjusted the early voting schedule. However, these political decisions were directly responsible for the hours-long lines in both swing states this year.
8. Obama Disenfranschised Overseas Military Voters
Another aspect of the Ohio litigation over early voting was the claim by Republicans and Fox News that the Obama campaign’s lawsuit to preserve early voting on the final weekend before Election Day disenfranschised overseas military voters. This lie was based on very twisted logic—if you could even call it that. Until 2011, all Ohioans could vote on the weekend before Election Day. But Ohio’s GOP-controlled Legislature passed a law that only allowed for overseas military members and their families to vote on that final weekend in November 2012. The Obama campaign sued, saying that did not treat all Ohio voters equally under the law.
Various Fox News on-air hosts said that Obama was seeking to prevent members of the military and their families from voting in the presidential election, a multi-dimensional untruth and smear. If anything, the Obama campaign lawsuit—which was victorious—would allow all Ohioans, at home and overseas, to have more voting options. (Ohio, like all states, gives troops overseas more time to return their ballots because of mail and delivery delays).
9. One Million GOP Poll Watchers Are Coming
The GOP’s voter vigilante squad, led by the new group, True the Vote, claimed that it would train and send 1 million polling place observers to swing states to be on the lookout for anything resembling (to them) voter fraud and to stop illegal voting. That didn’t happen. There was no invasion of Republican voting posses descending on thousands of local precincts in swing states.
True the Vote is not going away, but it needs to be seen for what it is—the front guard of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. Indeed, just as many Tea Partiers elected to the House in 2010 were unseated in 2012, this Republican cadre’s outsized claims should not be taken seriously.
10. Obama Will Steal The Election Electronically
The Republican National Committee made this claim in letters to a half-dozen top state election officials in swing states one week before Election Day. A top RNC lawyer cited isolated problems with paperless voting machines as a sign that Democrats were poised to electronically flip votes from Romney to Obama to steal the election. State election directors in Nevada and North Carolina responded with forceful letters, saying the RNC’s concerns and theory was unsupported by facts and vote-counting procedures.
Of course, what the RNC was doing was seeking to undermine the public’s confidence in a process that was headed toward re-electing Obama.
Last year, Pennsylvania’s Republican Gov. Tom Corbett proposed rigging the Electoral College vote in his state through a plan that would have given the majority of the state’s electors to Romney even after President Obama carried the state. Under Corbett’s plan, the winner of each congressional district within Pennsylvania would receive a single electoral vote, and the overall winner of the state would receive an additional two electoral votes. Had this plan been in place last Tuesday, Mitt Romney would likely have won 13 of the state’s 20 electoral votes, despite losing the state overall by more than five points.
Corbett’s election-rigging plan died, largely because Republican members of Congress in Pennsylvania feared that it would cause the Obama campaign to shift resources into their districts and endanger their own chances of being reelected. Now, however, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R)– who spent much of 2012 inventing ways to prevent pro-Obama votes from being cast or counted — wants to revive this election rigging scheme.
Indeed, if the Corbett/Husted plan to rig the Electoral College had been law in several key Republican-controlled states that President Obama won last Tuesday, America would now be looking at a very different future.
Add those 64 votes to the 206 votes Romney won legitimately, and it adds up to exactly 270 — the amount he needed to win the White House.
In the lead up to the 2000 presidential election, Florida’s Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris hired a private company to create an error-laden “scrub list” of so-called ineligible voters, eventually wrongly purging as many as 7000 voters from Florida’s rolls — or 13 times George W. Bush’s post-Supreme Court margin of victory. Moreover, because Harris’ list “invariably target[ed] a minority population in Florida” that was overwhelmingly likely to vote for Al Gore, it is likely that her voter purge gave the presidency to Bush. Four years later, Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell engaged in similar shenanigans to suppress the vote in his crucial swing state — including at one point saying he would reject voter registration forms if they were not printed on 80-pound thickness cardstock.
This election, the role of Kathrine Harris and Ken Blackwell is played by Ohio’s new Republican Secretary of State, Jon Husted. Here are just a few of the steps Husted took to try to swing Ohio’s crucial electoral votes to Mitt Romney:
- Trashing Provisional Ballots: In a last-minute directive that directly conflicts with Ohio law, Husted ordered all voters who make a mistake when filling out a form accompanying provisional ballots to be disenfranchised. As the majority of provisional ballots are cast in Ohio’s five largest counties — all of which favor Democrats — and because low-income and transient voters are also more likely to vote provisionally, Husted’s directive will likely disenfranchise many more Democrats than Republicans.
- Restricting Early Voting: Husted fought tooth and nail to limit opportunities to vote early in Ohio, although most of the restrictions on early voting Husted advocated were eventually blocked by a federal appeals court. Nevertheless, Husted still limited the number of hours available for early voting even after he lost in federal court, and he told an election law symposium last month that the court decision restoring early voting periods was an “un-American approach to voting.” Early voters in Ohio overwhelmingly support President Obama. As the federal court restoring early voting explained, “early voters have disproportionately lower incomes and less education than election day voters,” and thus are less likely to work flexibility to take time off to vote on election day.
- Defying Court Orders: After a federal district court declared Ohio’s efforts to suppress early voting unconstitutional, Husted openly defied this order — ordering local elections officials not to comply with it. Husted eventually backed down after federal Judge Peter Economus ordered Husted to personally attend a court hearing concerning his refusal to comply with the law.
- Retaliating Against People Who Oppose Him: Husted fired two Montgomery County board of election members after they voted to allow early voting on weekends when Husted opposed it.
It does not have to be the way.
Groups file emergency motion over last-minute move that could toss Ohio provisional ballots | theGrio
Voting rights advocates are asking a federal court to step in and stop what they call an eleventh hour move by the Ohio secretary of state that could disenfranchise thousands of Ohio voters. Lawyers representing plaintiffs in a case regarding how provisional ballots will be treated in Tuesday’s election filed an emergency motion challenging a directive to elections supervisors, issued by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted late Friday, after the court had closed.
Husted’s order requires poll workers to not count provisional ballots where voters make any errors in filling out their provisional ballot and affirmation, including the part of the form detailing what forms of identification they are presenting in order to vote. The problem: Ohio law states that filling out the ID portion of the form is the responsibility of poll workers, not voters. Ohio Revised Code Section 3505.181 (B)(6) states that “the appropriate local election official shall record the type of identification provided” by the voter.
“The voter is just supposed to write their name on the ballot form and affirmation and sign it,” Subodh Chandra, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in a case over how provisional ballots will be treated if voters are directed by poll workers to the wrong precinct told theGrio. “The election worker is not only supposed to write down the form of ID, they’re supposed to certify that they have told the voter what to do to verify that their vote counted. They’re supposed to provide guidance and they’re supposed to verify it.”
Husted changed the voter affirmation form, moving the portion where the ID information is entered above the signature line, despite the fact that by Ohio statute, it is supposed to be below the voter’s signature, in the section of the form to be filled out by a poll worker.
“I thought, this doesn’t make any sense, why he’s trying to disqualify ballots based on mistakes on ballot affirmation” Chandra said.
Voting rights activists fully expected Husted to issue a directive regarding how provisional ballots would be treated in the wake of the ruling, so Chandra sent a letter to Husted’s counsel, asking that Husted be sure to clarify in his order that an errors on the form made by poll workers not be counted against the voter. Chandra said Husted never responded to the request, or to a follow up telephone call.
“We were getting increasingly suspicious about what the directive would say, so we filed the emergency motion” requesting clarification from the federal court. “And then they issued the directive after business hours, without giving us any notice.” Chandra said.
In arguments before the Circuit Court, Husted deflected any concerns about potential voter disenfranchisement by reasserting that it is indeed the poll worker’s responsibility to ensure that the form of ID presented was recorded, adding that voters should not be disenfranchised due to a poll worker’s “failure to write something down.” Having made that argument, Husted nonetheless is now ordering elections supervisors to throw out provisional ballots where the ID is improperly recorded.
On Saturday, NEOCH, Progress Ohio and State Senator Nina Turner held an emergency press conference, in which they accused Husted of orchestrating a stealth form of voter suppression.
- Related: Ohio Secretary of state installs untested software on voting tabulators
- Related: For Democrats, suspicion of Husted runs deep
“Husted’s edict deliberately seeks to disenfranchise eligible voters whose votes should be counted,” a press release from Progress Ohio read. “In a close election, it could come down to provisional ballots and this 11th hour directive could be a game changer and is nothing short of voter suppression. Husted’s actions are now the subject of emergency motions which have been filed in federal court in Columbus by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.”
During his keynote speech at an election law symposium at University of Toledo on Friday, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) claimed two recent court decisions restoring early voting on the last three days before the election was “un-American.”
Husted has sought to restrict early voting, even openly defying a court order to lift the ban on voting on the last three days before Election Day. Once the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal, Husted immediately capped voting hours at just 16 hours for the entire three day period, down from 24 hours in 2008.
Husted asserted that every vote would be counted fairly and accurately, saying that voting in Ohio is “easy” and “anybody who says that there are residents in Ohio being barred from the right to vote is irresponsible.” Husted has certainly had to contend with many such “irresponsible” people. Though the court restored this three day period of voting, Husted has still prevented Ohioans from voting on evenings or weekends throughout October.
Two federal courts said that the Ohio Republican Party’s effort to reduce opportunities to vote early must not go into effect. And the Supreme Court rejected an attempt by Ohio Republican officials to reinstate a GOP-backed law taking away three days of early voting just this week.
Now, just two days after the conservative Roberts Court turned away Husted’s bid to reinstate the anti-voter law, he is still finding new ways to cut back early voting:
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted swiftly limited early voting hours on those crucial three days to 8 am–2 pm on Saturday, November 3; 1–5 pm on Sunday, November 4; and 8 am–2 pm on Monday, November 5. That means Ohio voters will have a total of only sixteen hours to cast a ballot during those three days. And before the weekend before the election, Ohio voters will still not be able to cast a ballot in-person on nights or weekends.
In 2008, the most populous counties in Ohio allowed more time for early voting—both in terms of days (thirty-five) and hours (on nights and weekends in many places). For the three days before the election, early voting locations were open for a total of twenty-four hours in Columbus’s Franklin County (8-5 on Saturday, 1-5 on Sunday and 8-7 on Monday) and 18 and a half hours in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County (9-1 on Saturday, 1-5 on Sunday, 8:30-7 pm on Monday). During those final three pre-election days in 2008, 148,000 votes were cast and “wait times stretched 2 1/2 hours,” reported the Columbus Dispatch.
There is a simple explanation for why Ohio Republicans are so determined to cut back early voting. Early voters are more likely to be minorities and are more likely to have lower incomes. They are also much less likely to have jobs that give them the flexibility to take time off to vote on election day. According to a recent Ohio poll, President Obama leads 57 percent to 38 percent among people who already voted, but is tied at 43 percent with Mitt Romney among likely voters who have yet to cast their ballot.
A Democratic congressman has launched an investigation into True The Vote, a conservative Tea Party group that has attempted to purge thousands of registered voters from voting rolls across the country ahead of the November presidential election.
The organization is pursuing an aggressive ground campaign to challenge people’s right to vote based on their residency and citizenship, such as the hundreds of college students who failed to identify their dorm room numbers on voter registration applications.
In a letter to Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder of True The Vote, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) accused the Texas-based organization of challenging the registration of thousands of legitimate voters “based on insufficient, inaccurate, and faulty evidence.”
"True the Vote, its volunteers, and its affiliated groups have a horrendous record of filing inaccurate voter registration challenges, causing legitimate voters — through no fault of their own — to receive letters from local election officials notifying them that their registrations have been challenged and requiring them to take steps to remedy false accusations against them," wrote Cummings, the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
The letter continues: “Multiple reviews by state and local government officials have documented voter registration challenges submitted by your volunteers based on insufficient evidence, outdated or inaccurate data, and faulty software and database capabilities. Across multiple states, government officials of both political parties have criticized your methods and work product for their lack of accuracy and reliability.”
"Your tactics have been so problematic that even Ohio Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted has condemned them as potentially illegal," Cummings states in his letter.
Cummings told The Huffington Post that it appears that True The Vote has been extremely selective in whom it targets for a challenge.
"We have asked True The Vote to provide us with documentation that shows exactly how they select folks to go after and challenge," Cummings said. Cummings said some of what he’s heard about the group’s strategy has been disturbing and, if true, threatens fundamental American rights.
"It does appear that they are quite selective in who they challenge, and it appears they primarily go after people who might be inclined to vote Democratic," Cummings said. The congressman said that in Ohio, for example, True The Vote has targeted nine of 13 districts won by President Barack Obama in 2008.
"It also appears they challenge, at disproportionate rates, African Americans," Cummings said, characterizing these tactics as "blatant." He questioned True The Vote’s intent and said that Engelbrecht has made it public knowledge that she’d like to see Obama defeated.
Cummings said, “You would think someone trying to address voter fraud wouldn’t be talking about who they want in the White House; it would be ‘I want to talk about fair elections.’”
True The Vote’s website describes the organization’s mission as to “restore truth, faith, and integrity to our elections.”
The group and its offshoots in various states have gained a reputation for aggressively challenging the legitimacy of properly registered voters. Critics say their tactics are often flawed and especially target poor and minority communities.
The group has also filed lawsuits against election officials in Ohio and Indiana, and instructs volunteers on how to use software to cross-check voter rolls against driver’s license records and property records, among other databases. A Government Accountability Board in Wisconsin, where True The Vote raised questions about thousands of voter signatures, called the results of the group’s process "at best flawed."
Last week, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) asked the Justice Department to “protect Americans from voter intimidation” in the face of “widespread efforts by Tea Party-linked groups to intimidate voters and suppress the vote, particularly in low-income and minority neighborhoods.”
In a letter to Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, head of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, Boxer asked that they uphold the tenets of the Voting Rights Act.
"No group can be allowed to intimidate or interfere with this fundamental right that is essential for American democracy," Boxer wrote.
"This type of intimidation must stop," Boxer continued. "I don’t believe this is ‘True the Vote.’ I believe it’s ‘Stop the Vote.’"
h/t: Huffington Post
BREAKING: Ohio Secretary Of State Backs Down, Allows Local Officials To Set Early Voting Hours | ThinkProgress
After previously trying to restrict early voting, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) today reversed course on his decision to block county boards of elections from setting their own early voting hours in the days leading up to the November election.
Last month, Husted and Ohio Republicansled an effort to limit early voting hours in Democratic counties, including those with major cities like Columbus and Cleveland, while expanding early voting in Republican counties. After the ensuing uproar, Husted moved to restrict voting hours across the state, only to have his cuts to early voting restored by a federal court.
Facing a direct court order, Husted has chosen instead to back down. This afternoon, Husted’s office released Directive 2012-42 with a brief message: “Directive 2012-40 is hereby rescinded.” As a result, county boards of elections will now be allowed to set their own hours, pending Husted’s appeal of the Obama for America v. Husted decision.