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May
2014
8

Secretary of Hate: Top Ohio Official Withholding New Voting Rule Info from Minorities, Dems

Jon Husted. As White as he wants to be.

Jon Husted. As White as he wants to be.


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Emails obtained exclusively by Salon provide details of deliberations among Ohio Republicans seeking to change election laws in their favor prior to the midterm elections.  The emails involve Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, his general council, and his elections director.  

The emails reveal plans to share information with some groups over others, painting a picture of public officials who want to sway an election. Husted’s choice to cut early voting on Sundays and evenings had already sparked a backlash among those who saw it as a way to disenfranchise African-American church groups who often hold ‘get out the vote’ events after services.

According to Salon writer Spencer Goodman:

The records also show that, in exercising its power to send information about the recent voting changes to organizations throughout the state, Husted’s office appears to express a strong preference for providing information to Republican-aligned groups, and even specifically addresses the possibility of excluding non-Republican legislators.

Emails in which Secretary of State officials deliberate on which groups should receive an educational document containing information about the state’s new voting protocol go into impressive detail on Republican-aligned organizations — Second Amendment groups, Right to Life, Tea Party, Conservative Groups, hunters, YR [Young Republicans], the Republican-aligned National Federation of Independent Business, and the Ohio Voter Integrity Project (a voter-fraud focused group that has been accused of harassing voters) — and then simply lists “minority groups” with apparently just one specific example [the reference to Rev. Pierce]. At one point, the Secretary of State’s communications director asks whether the office should exclude all non-Republican legislators in the dissemination of voter education material.

In response to the emails, Mike Brickner of the ACLU of Ohio questioned Husted’s methods:

Why wouldn’t you send this to Democratic legislators?  The Secretary of State’s office should be providing this material to basically every group in the state that works with people who are 18 or older regardless of their background or their political beliefs. Looking at these lists there seems to be more emphasis on getting this voter educational material to what are traditionally conservative groups.”

In Ohio, officials have made a habit of enacting sweeping change before each election cycle.  Carrie Davis, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, told Salon:

“Almost every time we have an election, the rules are different from last time we voted,” Davis says. “If it’s difficult for the people who follow election law to keep up with all the changes, its certainly going to be onerous for regular citizens seeking to vote and the lack of outreach coming from the Secretary of State has been concerning.”

The state had infamously long lines at polling sites during the 2004 presidential election.  Since then early voting changes were made to ensure a similar scenario would be avoided.  But the latest rounds of changes — including Republican members eliminating “golden week,” a six day period in which citizens could register and vote in the same day — is a 360 for the worse.  Race and unscrupulous partisanship aside, Brickner believes the changes will bring back the voting mess the state worked to fix for nearly a decade:

“The fear is that all of these cuts to early voting will take us back to that place we never wanted to be in the first place.”

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