Jon Husted, who has done more than any secretary of state outside of Florida and North Carolina to restrict voting opportunities, is running ads touting his efforts to insure that all military personnel have had the opportunity to vote.
Husted’s efforts to restrict early voting and to disqualify provisional ballots just ahead of the 2012 presidential elections earned him considerable national attention, little of it positive. But, although he is standing for re-election this November, he has approached this election cycle in much the same blatantly partisan manner.
Here are the opening paragraphs of an article published by Plunderbund, a progressive blog, in May 2014:
“On February 25th, 2014 Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted released information about voting hours for the November 2014 election. Husted said would not be allowing any early in-person voting during the evenings or on the two days before the election, and he would not be allowing any early voting on Sundays, the day typically used by African-American churches for their Souls to the Polls GOTV efforts.
“Two weeks later, in a clear attempt to quiet the ever-growing chorus of critics accusing Husted of intentionally trying to disenfranchise African-American voters, a number of publications around the state published a guest column by Secretary of State Jon Husted titled ‘Voting Is Easy In Ohio.’
“The article made no mention of the restrictions Husted has adopted. Nor did it mention the new restrictions implemented in Senate Bill 238: a reduction in early voting days (down to 29 from 35 last year) and the elimination of ‘golden week’ (when a voter could register and vote on the same day). The bill was signed by Governor Kasich just days before Husted set the new voting hours.
“An article appearing at Salon.com yesterday reveals that Husted and his team ‘showed no interest’ in how the changes would impact African-American communities. By reviewing internal emails from Husted’s office, Salon was also able to determine that Husted’s team expressed ‘a strong preference’ for distributing information about the changes, and the guest column, to Republicans and Republican organizations.”
One expects that elected officials will be partisan, but in some offices, in particular those directly related to implementing voting rules and insuring equal access to the polls, our elected officials must make a special effort to maintain at least the appearance of a non-partisan stance—must make a special effort to reassure voters that they are meeting their responsibilities in a manner that is ultimately “above politics.”
And maintaining such a stance requires more than simply asserting that, despite much evidence to the contrary, you are committed to protecting everyone’s voting rights, regardless of their party affiliation or for whom they are most likely to vote.
In Ohio, as elsewhere, the specter of voter fraud continues to be used as a transparent excuse for making voting more complicated and more difficult. The goal is clearly to try to insure that the least represented residents of the state—those with the fewest special interests advocating on their behalf—remain the least likely to vote. Worse, other voters are encouraged to acquiesce to the negative stereotype that those voters are the most likely to commit voter fraud—despite the fact that such voter fraud remains an accusation largely unsupported by any evidence beyond the merely anecdotal. Indeed, over the last eight years, most of the cases of voter fraud that have led to prosecution, across the nation, have ironically involved Far Right groups who have employed unethical strategies to keep minority voters from casting valid ballots or any ballots whatsoever. (In contrast, despite all of the Far Right fear-mongering about the sinister practices of ACORN, no one associated with that group was ever prosecuted for voter fraud.)