Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Move along.. Nothing to see here.. Ohio. Still.

          November 2, 2004. A cold grey, wet rainy day in a pivotal battleground State. In predominately white Republican precincts voting was a smooth, quick experience. In Democratic precincts voters waited in lines for up to twelve hours in bone chilling rain. Polling places were open well after closing time to allow those in line to cast a ballot.. There were too few machines to accommodate voters in many precincts. Machines broke down at others causing more delay. Machines counted votes for John Kerry as votes For George Bush. Voters were sent to vote at the wrong polling places which would prevent their ballot from being counted. Voters found they weren't listed as being registered. In the mother of all coincidences these anomalies benefited the incumbent Republican President.
Since we are talking of massive minority vote suppression we must be dealing with a Southern State. Florida or Virginia, maybe? North Carolina, Arkansas or Tennessee?
No. Ohio.
J. Kenneth Blackwell, Republican Secretary Of State,was the State official who oversaw elections in Ohio. An African American Republican and an extremely conservative Republican at that, he had a reputation as a very partisan SecState. He also had close ties to the Re-election committee of President George Bush. Campaigning for Bush he made a statement open to interpretation. He guaranteed the President would carry Ohio. A brave statement indeed considering how close the polls were.
 Dissatisfaction with Bush was so high the President nearly lost the endorsement of The Columbus Dispatch. This daily paper in Columbus, Ohio's Capitol, had not endorsed a Democrat since Woodrow Wilson. The rumors were the Publisher, a mover and shaker in Ohio Republican politics, forced a Bush endorsement over the objections of the editorial board.
During the 2004 election cycle the Secretary of State's office was embroiled in controversy. Blackwell seemed to relish it.
Following massive Democratic registration drives he decreed only registrations on a certain size and weight paper would be accepted. Public outrage and ridicule, along threats of legal action forced him to back off that idea. There were reports of Democratic new registrations being shredded.
He mandated thr use of Diebold touch screen voting machines instead of preferred optical scanner machines. Coincidentally there would be no paper trail with the touch screen devices.There were also warnings floating around on the web that the Diebold software was easily hacked.
Blackwell sent out a directive that any voter showing up in a wrong polling place, if the poll worker was not convinced of residence could refuse to even issue a provisional ballot. This included voters directed to that wrong location by poll officials. As he appealed the ruling preventing this Ken said he would go to jail before he would comply. The appeal court rendered a split decision. Blackwell's enabling poll workers to arbitrarily refuse to issue provisional ballots was overturned. However voters who voted in wrong precinct would have their ballots disallowed. Ken stayed out of jail by complying.
Amazinly all decisions made by Blackwell in 2004 benefited George Bush. After mysterious disparity between exit polls, recounts and lawsuits Bush carried Ohio and was reelected. There are those who still suspect Ohio was stolen. You decide. An excellent book on this is Ohio What Happened and Why by Bob Fitrakis.
In 2006 the GOP lost every Statewide office. The new Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, oversaw an election in 2008 that set records for ballots cast. There was early voting through the weekend preceding the election. Clear and consistent voting rules were implemented. The result? A smooth example of representative government in action.
In 2010 as the Unicorn Wing of the Democratic Party stayed home sitting on their hands in a pique, the Tea Party fueled reactionary Republicans took over the State of Ohio. Their slash and burn style of governing resembled Reconstruction. They seemed to view the people of Ohio as a vanquished opponent to be repressed and subjected. Since  elections ran smoothly and fairly under the Democrats, election reform became a priority right behind abortion.
A move to suppress traditional Democratic voting blocks was hidden behind the rallying cry of Voter Fraud prevention. It seems any vote not for these reactionaries was potentially fraudulent. Never mind fraud wasn't an issue. A solution in search of a problem.
Restrictive identification requirements were instituted. Early voting was severely curtailed. Provisional ballot requirements were tightened. A voter who was directed to the wrong poling place by poll officials was out of luck. There different early voting standards in Republican Counties and Democratic counties.
Secretary of State Husted was besieged by litigation. Every loss was appealed. This included appeals to the SCOTUS. Husted consistently had his ass handed to him. So timely court challenges stopped Ohio from replaying 2004. This was not from a lack of effort by SecState Husted. He became the poster child for the implementation of rampant Republican voter suppression policies. These attempts were the most egregious in Northern States not subject to DOJ oversight under the Voting Rights Act. Thus affirming this is not a regional, Old Confederacy problem but official, if unspoken, Republican policy and strategy.
The only response and recourse left to fair minded Ohioans is the removal of Republicans that control Statewide offices. From Governor Kasich on down. Removing the Tea Party Legislators will be more difficult due to blatant Gerrymandering.
Husted is being challenged by State Senator Nina Turner a Dem who doesn't run from being called a liberal. She is a fighter and Husted is in for battle. But, he]ll be overseeing the election. Again we here in Ohio will have to be ready to stop suppression efforts as soon as they surface. Ohio should never be the but of political jokes and derision. It is time to prove we are't crazy following the abortion laws recently passed.
Defeating Kasich will derail his plans to run for President in 2016. Defeating Husted will derail any future plans he has to be Governor.
The only way to prevail in this fight for our future here in Ohio is to vote. Straight Dem from Governor down ballot. Vote. Organize. Fight back. VOTE!!

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