Ohio sets up one early-voting system for Republican counties, and a different one for Democratic counties
In Ohio, Republican-approved cutbacks in early voting will disproportionately disfranchise African American voters who live in the state’s most heavily populated counties. Ari Berman at The Nation gives us the skinny.
In Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County, African Americans make up 28 percent of the population but were 56 of early voters in 2008. In Columbus’s Franklin County, they make up 20 percent of the population but were 34 percent of early voters.
That early voting was a product of the mess in 2004 when voting machines were distributed in such a way as to create long lines in predominately Democratic, minority precincts. Many voters simply gave up and went home. Areport by the Democratic National Committee estimated that 174,000 voters left the queues. George W. Bush won in Ohio with 118,000 votes. Subsequently, Ohio added 35 early-voting days to the election calendar and 2008 went much smoother. Barack Obama won a majority of the votes in Ohio.
As a consequence, Republicans cut early voting back for the upcoming election from 35 days to 11 days, with the three days right before the election eliminated.Now, in heavily Democratic cities like Cleveland, Columbus, Akron and Toledo, early voting hours will be limited to 8 am until 5 pm on weekdays beginning on October 1, with no voting at night or during the weekend, when it’s most convenient for working people to vote. Republican election commissioners have blocked Democratic efforts to expand early voting hours in these counties, where the board of elections are split equally between Democratic and Republican members. Ohio Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted has broken the tie by intervening on behalf of his fellow Republicans.
‘I cannot create unequal access from one county board to another, and I must also keep in mind resources available to each county,” Husted said in explaining his decision to deny expanded early voting hours in heavily Democratic counties. Yet in solidly Republican counties like Warren and Butler, GOP election commissioners have approved expanded early voting hours on nights and weekends.
Say what? Unequal access for the boards? It’s unequal access for voters at issue, sir. But you knew that.
To repeat: Republicans in wealthier suburban districts will be able to vote at night, on weekends and other off-hours during those 11 early balloting days. Working-class Ohioans, Democrats or leaning that way, will find that early-voting hours in their counties are more likely to be available when they’re on the job and can’t get away. Which, of course, goes counter to the purpose of early voting.
Still think voting doesn’t matter? Republicans in Ohio seem to be working awfully hard to keep people of certain demographics from doing something that ‘doesn’t matter’.