<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Rollins Supreme Court allows Ohio's anti-voting ploy to proceed

Supreme Court Allows Ohio’s Anti-Voting Ploy to Proceed


Late last February, as the state lay under yet another unwelcome blanket of snow, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted issued a press release stating that early, in-person voting hours for the Nov. 4 elections would be reduced by nearly 30%. Ohio’s progressives immediately assailed the conservative Republican for the move, calling it a blatant instance of voting-hours gerrymandering – a charge that has become increasingly hard to refute given the time slots being trimmed or eliminated are those preferred by some of the constituents least likely to vote for Husted’s party: hourly workers, persons of color and the urban poor. Husted’s patently undemocratic voting schedule appeared a done deal until early last month when US District Judge Peter Economus ruled it a barrier to full enfranchisement. Attorneys for Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine wasted no time filing a brief in defense of the reduction in evening and weekend hours. Aided by friends in high state and federal places, their case was fast-tracked all the way to the Sixth Circuit US Court of Appeals.

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, who oversees the Sixth Circuit, in turn forwarded the appeal on to the full Court, where it triggered a predictable 5-4 decision to suspend the district court’s finding in favor of a 90-day stay; effectively endorsing Husted’s unabashedly stilted plan a mere 16 hours before the more accessible voting schedule was to take effect.

Representing a coalition of entities including the Ohio NAACP, Voting Rights Project (ACLU) and the Ohio League of Women Voters, ACLU official Dale Ho spoke following the Supreme Court for those most affected by the scheme:

“For many, it is their only chance to cast a ballot during an election. While (yesterday’s) order is not a final ruling on the merits, it will deprive many Ohioans of the opportunity to vote in the upcoming election as this case continues to make its way through the courts.”

Republican officials in my home state have a near-Nixonian paranoia when it comes to fair elections. This is hardly the first time Husted and GOP cronies have attempted an egregious voting coup in the service of their party’s ends: a similar effort was made ahead of the 2012 presidential election but was cut short when the Justices refused to hear the case.

This conservative allergy to open democracy is likewise manifested in the recognizable forms of dubious pre-election redistricting, unnecessarily long waits at scores of polling stations and recurring efforts to advance the straw-man argument known as voter fraud.

Shrinking opportunities to participate in the democratic process is a sinister deed no matter one’s political bent; but the sin is multiplied when the political transgressors’ cause is made stronger by so powerful an agent as the highest court in the land.

Politically minded Ohioans of both major parties revel in their state’s king-maker moniker, “As goes Ohio, so goes the nation”.

In the wake of so interventionist a decision, the claim may soon need amendment: “As goes Ohio, so goes the Supreme Court.”

Don Rollins is a juvenile court program coordinator and Unitarian Universalist minister living in Jackson, Ohio. Email donaldlrollins@gmail.com.

From The Progressive Populist, November 1, 2014


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