The Ohio Republican Party has moved on three key fronts to steal America’s 2012 election in the Buckeye State. Ohio will once again emerge as the bloodiest in the swing state slugfest.
The moves mirror much of what was done by the Republicans in 2000 and 2004 to steal those presidential elections for George W. Bush, as we report in the newly published WILL THE GOP STEAL AMERICA’S 2012 ELECTION? (soon to be found on www.freepress.org).
These moves may make it virtually impossible for Barack Obama to carry Ohio this November. In the years since Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004, the Democratic Party has made little headway in reforming our electoral system to make such thefts impossible:
1. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted blocked weekend voting and suspended the two Democratic Montgomery County (Dayton) board of election officials who voted to authorize weekend voting. 29,000 voters voted early in that county in 2008.
2. Since 2009, the Ohio GOP has successfully purged more than a million citizens from the state’s voter rolls. This accounts for more than 15% of the roughly 5.2 million votes counted for president in the state in 2008. The purge focusses on counties that are predominantly urban and Democratic; See: The Free Press uncovers one million voters purged in Ohio
3. Electronic voting machines have been installed throughout the state which are owned, operated, programmed and maintained and will be tallied by Republican-connected firms, including Diebold (now Premier), ES&S and Triad. See: Will “push and pray” voting prevail in 2012? The private companies behind the curtain: The great and powerful advocates of faith-based electronic voting
The latest flare-up in Ohio, and we can expect many more, is over early voting. Initially in Ohio, the Republican-dominated rural counties had extended early voting hours while the mostly Democratic urban counties failed to extend early voting hours beyond normal business hours Monday through Friday. In the urban areas, the boards of elections, comprised of four election officials—two Republican appointments, two Democratic appointments, deadlocked in the vote to extend hours 2–2.
On Wednesday, August 16, Ohio Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, per Ohio law, broke the deadlock by declaring that all counties follow uniform state early voting policy. Under his direction, all county boards of elections will be open from 8am-5pm during the first three weeks of early voting for the 2012 presidential election, and 8am-7pm for the last two weeks. Husted’s directive made no mention of weekend voting that was so popular in 2008, particularly among African-American voters. Some urban African-American churches had sponsored voter registration and voting days around their Sunday services, sometimes busing voters to the polls for early voting after the church service.
In 2004, 10.6% of the votes cast in Ohio were so-called “early votes” via absentee ballots. A voter had to be absent from the county to vote absentee. In-person Election Day voters at the 42 predominantly black inner-city precincts in Columbus waited between 3–7 hours to vote.
In 2005, Ohio election law was modified after the infamous 2004 presidential election, and the state moved to absentee voting without the voter needing to be actually absent from the county. In the 2008 election, when Ohio went for Barack Obama with 52% of the vote, early voting nearly tripled to 29.7%. This included voters able to vote in person at locations all over the state for 35 days prior to Election Day, including on weekends.
Husted took credit for “leveling the playing field,” but African-American State Representative Charleta Tavares immediately charged that the exclusion of weekend voting represented a deliberate attempt to suppress Democratic voters, and particularly black voters who voted 95% for Obama in 2008.
On Friday, August 17, Democrats Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie, Sr. were suspended by Husted from their Montgomery County Board of Elections positions for introducing and supporting a motion to hold weekend voting in their county. The vote, as expected, ended in a 2–2 tie among party lines. Husted demanded that the two Democrats vote to rescind the motion. Both refused. They were suspended and are to appear in Columbus for a hearing Monday August 20.
Lieberman told the Dayton Daily News that, “I believe that this is so critical to our freedom in America . . . that I’m doing what I think is right, and I cannot vote to rescind this motion.” Lieberman also argued that the directive did not specifically prohibit weekend hours.
Ohioans serving in the armed forces are allowed to early vote the last three days prior to Election Day, along with other Ohioans living overseas. The Obama campaign sued Ohio over this, challenging the legality of an Ohio law cutting three days from the early voting period for everyone except Ohio military personnel and Ohioans living overseas. Polls show that military personnel favor Romney by 21 points.
The Ohio Association of Election Officials, overwhelmingly dominated by Republicans from Ohio’s rural counties, endorsed the idea of cutting the final three early voting days. They argued that they needed the extra time over the weekend to prepare for Election Day, although some of the counties have very small voting populations compared to the nine urban counties that support keeping the three final early voting days.
The Obama campaign argued that voting rights should be equal for all voters in Ohio. The Romney campaign immediately attacked Obama for trying to take voting rights away from the military. This would be virtually impossible under Ohio law, since it would require the re-convening of the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate and House, and both casting their vote to end military voting privileges.
Rather, the Obama campaign simply requested that the three early voting days just prior to Election Day be continued as they were in the 2008 election. Husted could accomplish this with another statewide directive. Husted and Republican Attorney General Mike Dewine filed a brief opposing the right for Ohio voters to vote early on the last three days: “There is no fundamental right to in-person early voting.”
In a statement issued by his campaign, Romney called the lawsuit “an outrage.”
“The brave men and women of our military make tremendous sacrifices to protect and defend our freedoms, and we should do everything we can to protect our fundamental right to vote,” the statement read.
In 2004, Ohio’s Republican Governor Robert Taft, and Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell facilitated at least 100 different means of swinging the state’s electoral votes to George W. Bush. At the time, Blackwell served as co-chair of the state committee to re-elect Bush.
Ohio’s 20 electoral votes decided the election for Bush. Democrat John Kerry conceded immediately with more than 250,000 votes still uncounted. Bush’s official margin of victory was roughly 118,000 votes. More than 90,000 regularly cast votes, as opposed to provisional, from that election were never actually tallied, many rejected by Diebold optiscan machines in Lucas County. An final recount became impossible when boards of elections in 56 counties throughout the state defied a federal court order and destroyed thousands of 2004 ballots before they could be double-checked (disclosure: the order came as a result of the King-Lincoln-Bronzeville suit in which we served as attorney and plaintiff).
Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are the authors of WILL THE GOP STEAL AMERICA’S 2012 ELECTION? (soon to be found on Free Press).