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Republicans Continue Hindering Access to the Ballot

By German Lopez · January 15th, 2014 · Commentary
commentary 2014-01-15

At this point, it’s impossible to look at the big picture of Republican-led election reforms and not conclude that the GOP is clearly determined to make elections as difficult as possible for opposing voters and potential challengers.

Most recently, a federal judge reprimanded Republicans for a 2013 law that blatantly protected Republican Gov. John Kasich’s chances of re-election by restricting ballot access for minor political parties, some of which — particularly Libertarians — are upset with how Kasich, a self-described conservative, supported the federally funded Medicaid expansion. 

In his decision, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson wrote that the new law, dubbed the “John Kasich Re-election Protection Act” by Democrats and Libertarians, unfairly set new requirements after some minor parties already filed for the 2014 election. The rules, passed and signed by Republican legislators and Kasich in November, could stand for future elections, but they came too late to apply to the 2014 elections, Watson concluded.

Unsurprisingly, Secretary of State Jon Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine, both Republicans, are preparing to appeal Watson’s decision.

At the same time, Republican legislators and Kasich are expected to pass a bill that reduces the in-person early voting period in Ohio. The bill effectively ends the “Golden Week” in which voters can register to vote and file a ballot on the same day.

That bill comes after Republicans in the legislature and secretary of state’s office enacted all sorts of restrictions and hurdles in the 2012 election. Some of the restrictions were repealed after groups threatened a referendum, courts voiced their opposition and the national media set its sights on Ohio as a key swing state in the presidential election.

But many of the rules, some of which were enacted at the eleventh hour by Husted, remained on the books as Ohioans picked the president.

One of the more obvious surviving attempts at voter manipulation: gerrymandered congressional districts. Democrats in other states are also culpable of redrawing congressional district lines to their benefit, but Republicans took the practice to a new level with the latest round of redistricting. In Cincinnati, the Republican map effectively sealed Republican Rep. Steve Chabot’s seat by adding Republican stronghold Warren County to his list of constituents. In Cleveland, the redrawn map effectively forced Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich out of office.

And none of that mentions even stricter measures Republicans are pursuing in other states and across the country, including efforts to enforce voter ID laws that studies have found hurt minority and young voters more than any other bloc of voters.

Put it all together, and the trend is obvious: Republicans are trying their best to rig the elections.

Through their schemes, Republicans have done everything in their power to minimize the effect of voters that typically support Democrats, particularly youth and minorities. At the same time, they’ve reshaped electoral maps to maximize the old, white, rural demographics that benefit them so much.

The whole debacle echoes the written words of Doug Preisse, top adviser and close friend to Kasich: “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”

Ohio Republican Party Executive Director Matt Borges later said Preisse probably thought his comment was on background, as if admitting the racist remark was supposed to be secret somehow justifies it.

Of course, Republicans more in tune with proper messaging tactics insist they’re just trying to provide uniform rules across the state and help cash-strapped counties avoid the high costs of running an extra week of early voting.

But are Ohioans really to believe that the same political party that gutted state funding for local governments actually cares about county budgets? 

And given Preisse’s comment, claims of fairness stand out as blatantly dishonest.

Besides, the extra week of elections largely overlaps with time county boards of elections are supposed to remain open for normal office hours. County boards might need to keep more staff around for early voting periods and deal with the extra workload, but an extra week is not what’s driving some county budgets to the brink.

Given all the evidence, the truth is blatant. And whether someone identifies as a Democrat or Republican, no one should stand for a majority party that does its very best to suppress even the most minor of political opponents.

CONTACT GERMAN LOPEZ: glopez@citybeat.com or @germanrlopez



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