OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE HUSTED TANGLED IN HIS OWN WEB,By Louise Annarino, August 18,2012

18 Aug

OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN HUSTED TANGLED IN HIS OWN WEB, By Louise Annarino, August 18,2012

Oh what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive. – Sir Walter Scott (Marmion, 1808) 

Republican Secretary of State John Husted has a difficult task. His party expects him to help deliver the State of Ohio’s 18 electoral votes to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney while remaining fair and impartial managing the Ohio election process.

President Obama narrowly won Ohio in 2008 by 4 percentage points, or 207,000 votes. Certainly it could not be to hard to close that gap. The Republicans dominate and control the Ohio Legislature: 10 Democratic senators vs. 23 Republican senators; 40 Democratic representatives vs. 59 Republican representatives (http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page). Ohio Republicans used their legislative strength to reduce the Democratic voting pattern advantage, which seems to be growing stronger with changing demographics. Many of their moves aroused the ire of the electorate, fired up the Democratic base which had become complacent, and required Governor Kasich to appear to act with a less partisan agenda. The overturn of SB 5 intended to eliminate collective bargaining, weaken Ohio public employee unions, lessen union dollars and workers normally applied to elect Democratic candidates, and remove a balance of power in the workplace to ease the way for privatization of state government functions was the first sign a straightforward, open approach would not work in Ohio.

The agenda has not changed, but a web of deceit and manipulation has been hung over Ohio politics to disguise it. The Republican legislature next passed HB 194 and two weeks later HB 2249 (protecting in-person early vote for veterans in context of affirming no in-person early vote for all others under HB194) which rolled back the early access to the polls accomplished under former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (D), which successfully corrected the problem of persons unable to vote in 2004 due to hours-long lines in strong Democratic polling venues. I was a poll worker during that election. The first sign that then-Secretary of State Ken Blackwell was attempting to suppress Democratic votes was the use of electronic machines without a paper trail, the increased number of machines to Republican leaning wards/precincts and decreased number of machines in Democratic ones. The wait was so long in some of the poorer areas of Columbus, that people had to leave the line to go to  work after waiting 4-5 hours to vote. At Kenyon College, students and others waited 7-8 hours.

HB 194 was headed for repeal when opponents collected the necessary 300,000+ signatures to place it on the 2012 ballot. Fearing another SB5 fiasco, a firing up of the base to turn out even more heavily in November, the Republican legislature repealed HB 194, but not HB 224. Democrats argue that repeal of HB 194 restored early voting to where it was BEFORE the Hb 194, i.e. Brunner reform period. Republicans argue HB 224 still stands. The only part of HB 194 included in HB 224 was banning voting during the 3 days before election day: Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

On July 17, Obama for America, Ohio Democratic Party and the DNC filed a lawsuit against the Ohio Secretary of State John Husted to restore early voting rights for all Ohioans.”Ohio election law, as currently enacted by the State of Ohio and administered by Defendant Ohio Secretary of State, arbitrarily eliminates early voting during the three days prior to Election Day for most Ohio voters, a right previously available to all Ohio voters,” the lawsuit states.(Election Law Blog (pdf).) By law, IF the court agrees with Republicans the only loss of early voting established in 2008 would be those 3 days, the week-end and Monday before the election. Boards could vote for week-end voting for other week-ends. And, if Obama campaign wins the suit, boards could allow voting on that final week-end as well.

Republicans insist the real purpose of the Obama campaign lawsuit is to disenfranchise military voters. HB 224 merely clarified that HB 194 restrictions on early voting did not overturn other sections of Ohio and Federal laws allowing overseas and active military longer voting periods, including early voting. This lawsuit cannot have such an effect and this action is not requested in the relief sought by the Obama campaign. This is argument is a red herring, another strand on the web of Republican deceit.

Llocal election boards to set dates and times for early voting. Each board has two Democratic and two Republican members. Tie votes are decided by the Secretary of State. SoS Husted issued a memo that if the board vote resulted in a tie, he would set the date/time at regular business hours:8-5,M-F. At first glance this approach seems fair and impartial. Until one considers its impact.

White collar and affluent workers  who tend to vote Republican, are often able to get time off work to run out and vote,allowed to arrive late or leave their desks early. Blue-collar and service-workers, those with part-time jobs, those with more than one job because their pay is so lousy, single parents with kids to pick up at school or a babysitter after getting off work, those who rely on public transportation, older voters who require transportation by others to the polls and others who tend to vote Democratic find it much more difficult to vote. An 8-5/M-F schedule disproportionately disenfranchises half the voters of Ohio, 51% if we use data from the last presidential election. Husted’s policy sounds as if he is treating everyone equal,and he may be sincerely trying to do so. However, his stance actually creates a disparate outcome for many Ohio voters, in violation of equal protection rights.

The fact he foretold his fall-back decision would be business hours may sound like a Moses move, but in effect it was a message to Republicans on the election board that they had nothing to risk. In heavily leaning Republican areas they could vote with Democrats to remain open longer and vote on week-ends, since the Republican victory was already assured by the demographics. In heavily leaning Democratic areas, voting “no” to longer early voting hours and week-ends would create a Republican advantage by suppressing Democratic voters to an 8-5 schedule of little use to them. Republicans on election boards in Democratic areas knew Husted’s plan was more restrictive than anything they might have been pressured to agree to.

SoS Husted and Ohio Republicans argue that every Ohio voter (i.e. someone who voted in the 2008 election and is still at the same address,with same name) will be mailed an absentee ballot request form they can fill out and mail in to request an absentee ballot. This is supposed to make up for the fact they can’t get to early in-person vote. However, this assumes that the apps will actually be mailed, correctly and on-time. It also assumes that voters who have never voted on an absentee ballot will believe it to be secure. Many persons, especially those from less affluent backgrounds have experienced enough corruption and mishandling of their rights in other venues only feel secure voting in person,watching their ballot go into the box, or seeing the tape print out their vote. They should be able to have the same right to vote in-person as active-duty military living in Ohio.Veterans should also have the same in-person voting right as active duty military.

The reason we have poll-workers on-site is to make sure things go right. They answer questions, offer a second or third ballot if one is miss-marked, explain how the operation works to avoid such errors. Being human beings, it sometimes happens that something goes wrong. A voter taps the wrong name on the machine, fills in the wrong spot on an absentee ballot, forgets to tap the VOTE button at the end. Poll workers watch for such mistakes because EACH and EVERY vote is a sacred trust.

Voting by mail has its downside. I was once mailed two absentee ballots.I called the Board of Elections and discovered two different files showed different information. An old address was in one;the new address was in a second but both ballots were sent to the new address. I was told the ballot would have to be provisional due to my mix-up;and, that I could no longer vote at the polls since a ballot had been issued. Stuff happens. I never vote by mail now. I don’t trust the ballot request, nor  the ballot return will be properly handled.  I tried mailing my ballot that year with a return receipt requested but no one would sign for it. I sent it with a proof of delivery. I always wonder if my vote counted that year. There are valid reasons Ohioans want to vote in-person.I have yet to hear a valid reason they should not be able to do so at a time and place intended to get out the vote,not suppress it. Tangled webs are hard to escape,but I have confidence SoS Husted could easily do so if he truly is working to help Ohioans vote in a non-partisan manner.

No doubt by the time you read this things will have changed again. The two Democratic election board members from Montgomery County (Dayton area), Thomas Ritchie Sr. and Dennis Lieberman,have been suspended by SoS Husted and face a hearing to fire them on Monday morning, for voting to restore week-end voting despite Husted’s order. “Their Board had voted earlier to have evening and weekend hours in a bipartisan vote.  The SOS sent out a directive Wednesday afternoon ordering uniform hours across the state of 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday until the last two weeks when the hours will be 8am to 7pm Monday through Friday.  He ordered NO weekend hours.  There was a tie vote on this second motion.  Instead of breaking the tie vote.  Husted threatened to fire the Dems if they did not withdraw their motion.  There is a hearing on Monday about defying his directive with the intention of firing both Dems.  After announcing the hearing, Husted cast his vote with the Republicans.  That sent a message to all the Republicans around the state–vote against extended weekend hours.”(Mary Woods)

The Franklin County (Columbus area) Board of Elections next meets at 3 pm Monday,August 20 at 280 East Broad Street. Enter on the ground level through door on east side of building and sign in at guard’s desk to the left and he will direct you to the meeting location. Several groups are planning a rally to remind SoS Husted he works for all Ohioans, not just Republicans; and, that the effort to suppress ANYONE’S vote is unacceptable to Ohioans. Marchers will meet at the SoS office ,180 E. Broad St. at 2pm and march to the 3pm meeting at the Board of Elections,280 E.Broad St.

In the meantime, check your registration at http://www.sos.state.oh.us/sos/elections/Voters.aspx. or call (614) 466-2655/ (877) SOS-OHIO (767-6446). You can update your address, make a name-change,learn what ID you will need to vote and find answers to your questions. You can also pick up a voter registration form at your local library. Whatever you decide to do, do it TODAY. time is getting short. Early in-person voting starts October 2d. http://www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/Upload/elections/directives/2012/Dir2012-35.pdf

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One Response to “OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE HUSTED TANGLED IN HIS OWN WEB,By Louise Annarino, August 18,2012”

  1. Lynn Buffington August 18, 2012 at 11:23 pm #

    folks are also rallying on Monday, Aug 20, 8 AM outside the SOS office in support of the suspended Montgomery County BOE workers whose hearing is at 9 AM.

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