Friday, August 24, 2012

NYT: Overt Voter Discrimination In Ohio

New York Times

Overt Discrimination in Ohio

Update: On Wednesday afternoon, Jon Husted, the Ohio Secretary of State, announced that all Ohio counties would follow a uniform early-voting policy. The policy would extend early-voting hours to 7 p.m. on weekdays during the last two weeks before the election, though all early voting is banned during the final three days of the campaign.

If you live in Butler or Warren counties in the Republican-leaning suburbs of Cincinnati, you can vote for president beginning in October by going to a polling place in the evening or on weekends. Republican officials in those counties want to make it convenient for their residents to vote early and avoid long lines on Election Day.
But, if you live in Cincinnati, you’re out of luck. Republicans on the county election board are planning to end early voting in the city promptly at 5 p.m., and ban it completely on weekends,according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. The convenience, in other words, will not be extended to the city’s working people.
The sleazy politics behind the disparity is obvious. Hamilton County, which contains Cincinnati, is largely Democratic and voted solidly for Barack Obama in 2008. So did the other urban areas of Cleveland, Columbus and Akron, where Republicans, with the assistance of the Ohio secretary of state, Jon Husted, have already eliminated the extended hours for early voting.
County election boards in Ohio, a closely contested swing state, are evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. In counties likely to vote for President Obama, Republicans have voted against the extended hours, and Mr. Husted has broken the tie in their favor. (He said the counties couldn’t afford the long hours.) In counties likely to vote for Mitt Romney, Republicans have not objected to the extended hours.
This is just the latest alarming example of how Republicans across the country are trying to manipulate the electoral system by blocking the voting rights of their opponents. These actions have a disproportionate effect on blacks, Hispanics and other ethnic minorities who struggled for so long to participate in American democracy.
Cincinnati, for example, is 45 percent black, and Cleveland 53 percent. Butler County, however, is 8 percent black, and Warren 3.5 percent. This kind of racial disparity is clearly visible wherever Republicans have trampled on voting rights during Mr. Obama’s term.
In Florida, more than half of black voters went to the polls early in 2008 largely to support Mr. Obama. So, last year, Republican lawmakers there severely curtailed the early voting period. In Pennsylvania and other states that have imposed strict voter ID requirements, the impact will be felt hardest by blacks, Hispanics, older citizens and students, all of whom tend to lack government ID cards at a higher rate than the general population. At the trial in Pennsylvania over the constitutionality of the state’s voter ID law, the plaintiffs introduced clear evidence, compiled by a geographic data analysis firm, that registered voters in Philadelphia who lack government ID cards are concentrated in minority and low-income areas.
In Ohio, as in other states, the Republican Party is establishing a reputation for putting short-term political gain ahead of the most fundamental democratic rights.


    • Richard Luettgen
    • New Jersey
    NYT Pick
    Why must your arguments assume that people who are entitled to vote are so disengaged that they won't make a successful effort to vote, despite the need to prove that they are who they say they are before exercising a right that requires for its exercise that they BE who they say they are? Or that, in some cases, they must vote on Tuesday, 6 November, between whenever a polling place opens and whenever it closes (the way I always voted)?

    Since when was it ever the responsibility of society to basically compel a vote from someone who had something more important to her to do than vote on a date and during times that are known well in advance, and that have been traditional since our founding? Compel the vote by spending whatever sums are necessary to actually place the ballot under someone's nose and asking her to press a button?

    If you had the numbers to successfully impose YOUR view of what is right, that voting should be made as simplistic and trivial an exercise as possible because those who probably would likely vote under such a regime and might not under a more traditional one also most likely would vote Democratic; then, you wouldn't have the need to editorialize on the victory of those who disagree with you and obviously DO have numbers behind them.

    Until you get the numbers, you're merely arguing for your sense of what's "right", with people who have a different sense of what's "right"; and, currently, your adversaries outnumber you.
      • Peter
      • Metro Boston
      NYT Pick
      Richard, you often seem a reasonable guy, but where's your concern about "equal protection under law" in this case? If a state allows early voting, it should impose uniform rules for its implementation across the state. If the election officials want to go home at 5 pm and not work Saturdays, then make that the standard across all of Ohio. If the state wants to abolish early voting, then so be it. But to countenance a system where voters in wealthier, and more Republican, areas have more permissive rules then ones in poorer, more Democratic districts, is discriminatory plan and simple. What is so hard to understand about that? And why shouldn't these policies be overturned in the courts on Fourteenth Amendment grounds?

      Maybe rather than abolishing the special scrutiny laws that were imposed on the South under the Voting Rights Act, as Republicans and conservatives like Scalia advocate, we should instead extend them to cover the entire nation. Racism is alive and well throughout America, not just in the former Confederacy, and the Justice Department should have the power to overturn discriminatory policies like these.
        • WR
        • Los Angeles
        NYT Pick
        The issue is NOT that everyone has the right to vote early; the issue is that only SOME people are being granted the right to vote early -- and those people are the ones who are more likely to vote Democratic. The issue is not that people must prove they are who they say they are but that only SOME people have difficulty providing the specific documentation required -- and and those people are the ones who are more likely to vote Democratic. This is vote suppression pure and simple. As for the numbers: the Constitution of the United States and Federal Voting Rights Act specifically deny states and counties to act as Ohio is doing -- the rights of minorities are protected by Constitution and statute exactly to prevent those in power from suppressing those rights.
          • GuapoRey
          • Boston
          NYT Pick
          Husted is presumptuous in his reasoning, he is not part of the county budgeting process.
            • ClearEye
            • Princeton, NJ
            NYT Pick
            From the Brennan Center for Justice:

            ''Voting is the heart of democracy.

            Yet today, our voting systems are deeply flawed. We boast the world’s oldest representative government, but barely half of all Americans vote. Over the past century, our nation expanded the right to vote and knocked down myriad barriers to full electoral participation. Starting in 2011, however, that momentum abruptly shifted.

            State governments across the country enacted an array of new laws that could make it significantly harder for as many as 5 million eligible Americans to vote. Some states require voters to show government-issued photo identification, often of a type that as many as one in ten voters do not have. Other states have cut back on early voting, a hugely popular innovation used by millions of Americans. Still others made it much more difficult for citizens to register to vote, a prerequisite for voting.

            These new restrictions fall most heavily on young, minority, elderly, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities.''

            The Founders were mostly landowners and, accordingly, restricted voting rights in ways that we have since changed. As the Pennsylvania case illustrates, the new movement to restrict voting rights has nothing to do with any proven abuse--the Commonwealth presented no evidence that fraud had or would occur.

            The new laws are just an effort to keep the less privileged from exercising their most basic American right. It is the return of Jim Crow.
              • micky bitsko
              • New York, NY
              NYT Pick
              Sir, many people get up before the crack of dawn, dress and feed their kids, then head off to grueling jobs many miles away, traveling by public transportation. They come back home in the dark, exhausted, and feed their kids again. Some are not that lucky. They head off to their second job after their first job finishes, and maybe come home around midnight or later.

              Even in areas of the white-collar sector, the nine-to-five job is a quaint relic of the past. For some white-collar workers, the work day plus commute can easily extend from 6 AM to 9 PM.

              And we wonder why turnout is often less than fifty percent, especially in mid-term elections?

              Voting on a work day disenfranchises a large segment of our working population. Most advanced countries have weekend voting and we should follow suit.

              There is an organization that is working to establish weekend and extended voting in the U.S.A. It's called "Why Tuesday?" For information on how to get involved in the fight to make it easier for working people to vote, visit:

                • Tom
                • Berwyn, Illinois
                NYT Pick
                There is absolutely no good reason not to encourage the entire nation to vote and participate in our democracy. We have been encouraging people to vote since voting began, yet our statistics are the most shameful in the free world. Any attempt to prevent people from voting, or make it inconvenient for them, has nothing to do with voter fraud. It has to do with the takeover of a free nation by monied interests. Strong words for a very strong effort. They need to be stopped.
                  • M Worthington
                  • Brooklyn
                  NYT Pick
                  I have the odd juxtaposition of vacationing in DC with my 7 year old son learning about the wonder of American history while having to read stuff like this while he sleeps. Amazing.
                    • Dave K
                    • Cleveland, OH
                    NYT Pick
                    This kind of thing is hardly surprising for anyone who lives in Ohio.

                    Some of the shenanigans I've been witness to:
                    1. There typically aren't enough functioning voting machines in the districts where they wanted to suppress the vote, so that in suburban precincts voting takes 15 minutes while in urban precincts and college towns voting takes 3-4 hours.

                    2. In 2004 Diebold Election Systems, makers of the electronic voting systems used throughout Ohio, promised the electoral votes in Ohio to George W Bush. The voting machines registered about 5% more support for Bush than exit polling did, which was highly suspicious to say the least.

                    3. Voter registration forms from Democratic-leaning districts and organizations were rejected by the Secretary of State's office because they used the wrong kind of paper. They didn't notify prospective voters of this decision. Similar forms from right-wing fundamentalist church groups were accepted.

                    4. In 2008, voter registration forms from some Democratic-leaning organizations such as Acorn were rejected because there were obviously fraudulent forms (e.g. voter name: Mickey Mouse) mixed in with the real forms. The reason Acorn had submitted these, though, was that state law required them to do so.

                    5. During spot-check audits in 2008, election officials sorted the ballots before counting them to make sure that they came up with the right answer.
                      • Former New Yorker
                      • Paris
                      NYT Pick
                      When I read something like this, I wonder why--well, not really, but in an ideal world, the creaking, crooked set of 18th century mechanisms used to elect a president in the United States aren't jettisoned in favor of something NEW! BOLD! BRIGHTER! BETTER! What I have in mind is the abolition of the whole wasteful business of state by state primaries in favor of national conventions where the candidates are chosen and a rapid abolition of the absurd electoral college in favor of direct popular voting. It's just insane that 12 people in Florida or Ohio always end up determining the winner, and that the whole West Coast is always dealt out of the national dialogue to the extent that it is.
                        • AMcK
                        • San Diego, CA
                        NYT Pick
                        I used to live in Ohio. After leaving work at 5:30pm, usually in the dark and often in the rain (rainy season starts in September in Ohio) it was a miserable ordeal to stand in long lines waiting to get in to the voter booths before 8pm when they closed down. It's a wonder anyone votes in that State considering what they have to go through to vote. And that's just how Republicans in that State want it to continue. In Republican counties the election officials have put in place extended hours and added weekends. That this is still going on is just outrageous. Everyone should have an equal opportunity to place their vote but instead those officials in charge of voting in Ohio are stealing votes any way they can. I am so glad this article has brought this outrage to public scrutiny. I am so glad I no longer live there and know that where I live now I can vote without a problem.
                          • Norman
                          • Cleveland
                          NYT Pick
                          The voter suppression tactic in Ohio is even worse than described in the Editorial, because in large cities, the early in-person voting reduced by partisan action was disproportionately African American (in 2008). For instance, in Cleveland, African Americans comprised 56% of such voters but only 26% of those who voted by other means (see research report, Similar results are now emerging in other Ohio cities.
                          Those who are doing this completely understand that in a state with razor-thin electoral margins, chipping away 2-4% of the vote by the other side is all you need to win.
                            • Norman Dale
                            • Cincinnati, OH
                            NYT Pick
                            I was one of the 25% of the voters in Hamilton County who voted early or absentee in 2008, and it took roughly an hour from the time I got in line to the time I received my ballot to vote. After talking with others in line, I guessed 80% or so of the people were going to vote for Obama. My guess may have been a little off, as President Obama won 58% - 42% of the early voting in Hamilton county in 2008. However, when adding the votes cast on Election Day, the President won 53% - 46% - not sure if that qualifies as "solidly winning" as described in the editorial. In terms of number of votes, Obama carried Hamilton County by 30,000 votes. McCain carried Butler County by 39,000 votes, and McCain carried Warren County by 38,000 votes.

                            Both parties have played these games in Ohio for years, and I suspect the same is done in other states as well. What's weird is that the Democratic Party did not object to keeping the long early voting in Warren and Butler Counties - objecting would have forced Sec. of State Husted to limit voting hours in those counties as well.

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