Ohio Republicans Formally Made It Harder for a Million People to Vote
And the Supreme Court helped them.
By Charles P. Pierce, September 13, 2016
Because here in the shebeen we do nothing if not seek balance in all things, we must note that the forces demanding that the franchise be protected against the various legislators and secretaries of state seeking to carve it up had their winning streak in the Supreme Court end on Tuesday morning.
The high court rejected a request by Ohio Democrats and let stand an August ruling by the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld the 2014 law, which imposed new restrictions on when people could register to vote and cast ballots. Ohio Democrats argued that the law had a discriminatory impact on black voters. The law was one of numerous passed in recent years in Republican-governed states that Democrats and civil rights activists have said were intended to make it more difficult for voters including African-Americans, Hispanics and others who tend to back Democratic candidates to cast ballots…Ohio's Republican-controlled legislature abolished Golden Week and shortened early voting to 29 days from 35 days. Ohio often is a pivotal state in U.S. presidential elections… Golden Week was created to make it easier for people to vote in Ohio after lengthy lines at polling locations marred the 2004 election. In 2008, 60,000 people voted during the Golden Week period and 80,000 did so in 2012.This comes on top of the announcement by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted—who is a star among the people who are doing the carving on the franchise—that, if you're waiting for an absentee ballot in Ohio, and you happen to be part of a certain 14 percent of the Ohio electorate, you might as well just tune in to the televised lottery show. Via Ohio.com:
Husted, a Republican in his second term as the state elections chief, has decided not to send absentee ballot applications to 1,032,775 registered voters who, reportedly, did not vote in the 2012 or 2014 federal elections (although many have voted in off-year elections) or who are thought to have moved.Surely, the vetting process was as rigid as it should have been, given the sacredness of the franchise and Ohio's status as a major bellwether battleground.
Some, a Beacon Journal investigation has found, have voted as recently as March and have not, in fact, moved. This includes some of the 36,822 Summit County voters who aren't getting the absentee ballot applications this year. Early voting begins Oct. 12. The practice reduces lines on Election Day. Most argue that it boosts turnout. And, without a doubt, it has been popular in Ohio. In 2012, 1.8 million voters, or a third who participated, voted early by mailing or handing in their ballots to a county board of elections in the five weeks before the November election. This year with the elimination of "Golden Week," which allowed voters to register and cast ballots all at once, the early voting period has been reduced to four weeks.(It's here where we remind everyone that Ohio is governed by noted Moderate Republican Nice Guy John Kasich, who signed the bill eliminating Golden Week, and who is The Road Not Taken for everyone who'd rather not look the current Republican electorate in the eye.)
Back in 1873, Ohio held a constitutional convention. A committee recommended enfranchising immigrants who had declared their intention to become citizens. This sent the convention up the wall. According to Alexander Keyssar in his essential The Right To Vote, the debate was not exactly elevated. The side in favor of enfranchising immigrants said that not doing so would imply that the European immigrants were inferior to native-born African-Americans, who had been enfranchised for all of three years. The opposition, as noted by Keyssar, went sailing off into the izonkosphere, never to return.
For example, there was this delegate from Butler, a guy named Lewis Campbell, who was very concerned about…things. Campbell issued a serious warning:
"…it will be granted not only to the unnaturalized foreigner who comes here from European countries, but also to the unnaturalized African who might be brought over…by Dr. Livingstone; and should he capture in the jungles of that benighted land…a specimen of the connecting link between man and the animal, as described by the theory of Darwin, and bring him to Ohio, that link could not only claim to become a citizen of the United States but without nationalization…claim to be sovereign, a voter and an office-holder…"Ha, ha, this is entirely hilarious. Imagine this Campbell guy. He thought The Missing Link was going to come over here and vote. And people believed him. And made policy based on this hilarious idea. Me? I've spent a couple of years listening to the arguments presented by people like Jon Husted, and watching the doings of the Congresses elected in 2010 and in 2014, and I think old Lewis Campbell was just being clairvoyant and we should have listened to the warning he gave us.