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GOP Brings Race into Ohio's Early Voting Controversy

By German Lopez · August 22nd, 2012 · City Desk

“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.” So said Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party, in an email to The Columbus Dispatch.

The racist comment came at the height of a controversy regarding early voting in Ohio. To put an end to county-by-county discrepancies for early voting hours, Secretary of State Jon Husted directed county boards of elections on Aug. 15 to enact uniform early voting hours.

The new hours would mostly keep business hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the first three weeks of early voting, which begins Oct.

2. For the final two weeks, early voting would be expanded to 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., with the final Friday of early voting lasting from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The new hours exclude any weekend voting.

The move to standardize voting hours across the state was not well received by Democrats. They see it as an attempt to limit early voting by not including weekends.

Soon after Husted directed county boards to invoke his uniform rules, Dayton-area Democrats voted to ignore the rules and enact weekend voting anyway. Husted told the Democrats to follow his uniform rules. When the Democrats on the board refused, Husted suspended and threatened to fire them.

“It’s outrageous and borderline criminal,” said Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, in a statement reacting to Husted’s threats.

That led to Preisse’s admission to playing racial politics in an attempt to defend Republicans, and it also led to a hearing Aug. 20 on whether or not the Montgomery County Board of Elections Democrats can be fired.At the hearing, Dennis Lieberman, one of the Democrats on the Montgomery County Board of Elections, said he “was not put on the board of elections to be a puppet.” Lieberman also pointed out that weekend voting saved Montgomery County $200,000 in the 2008 elections by lowering the number of precincts required.



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