The United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, allowed Ohio’s notoriously racist voting laws to remain in place during the 2014 election. Ohio Secretary of State (SoS) Jon Husted has embraced the new Jim Crow policy of limiting access to the polls by poor, elderly and black voters.
Husted, under a twisted version of “equality” has limited Ohio’s nine major urban areas to having only one early voting site each, guaranteed to create long lines as it did in the 2004 and 2012 elections. In 2008, then-SoS Jennifer Brunner allowed the Franklin County Board of Elections to establish five early voting centers in the greater Columbus area.
Last week, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld federal Judge Peter Economus’ historic ruling protecting African American voting rights in Ohio. In a September 4, 2014 opinion, Economus held that the actions of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted violated both the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by erecting illegal barriers to keep minorities and the poor from voting in the Buckeye State.
Husted’s attack on voting right proceeded under the guise of fighting “voter fraud.”
Economus noted, “The state’s argument about reducing fraud did not withstand logical scrutiny.” As the New York Times stated, “There has been no in-person voter fraud documented in the country.” Republican Secretary of State Husted is up for re-election this year, and in order to increase his chances he came up with a variety of measures that directly suppress minority and poor voters. His opponent, State Senator Nina Turner (D-25), is a black female and an outspoken voting rights activist.
One of Husted’s tactics is to limit early voting sites in all 88 Ohio counties to one location per county. He does this under the guise of “fairness.” In Williams County, Ohio, a virtually all white county with 10,000 people, there will be one early voting site. In Cleveland, Ohio, with a million and a half or so people and a large concentration of black voters, there will also be one early voting location.
In Franklin County, with 1.3 million people, including the City of Columbus that is nearly 30% black, there were five early voting sites under Husted’s predecessor, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. Husted has dedicated his office to keeping blacks from voting on the Sunday prior to Tuesday’s Election Day. This early voting day has become known as “Souls to the Polls.” African American congregations carpool, use church vans and send buses to take people to the early voting centers. Husted will allow voting from 1-5pm on the Sunday before the election, but not allow a full eight-hour voting day.
Judge Economus noted in his ruling against Husted that in the greater Cleveland area during the 2008 election, African American voters were 26 times more likely to cast early ballots than white voters. He stated that, “Despite accounting for a mere 28.6% of the estimated overall vote, African-American voters cast an estimated 77.9% of all…” early votes in Cuyahoga County.
Black people vote early because of the disenfranchisement experienced during the 2004 presidential election in Ohio. The average wait in Columbus’ 42 heaviest black wards was between 3-7 hours on Election Day. The Free Press found that 20% of all voters in one mostly black ward left the polling site without successfully voting. Economus’ ruling had restored the so-called “Golden Week” of early voting.
Early voting begins 35 days before Election Day. People can register to vote up until 30 days before the election. Thus, potential voters can register and vote during those five days, called the Golden Week. The U.S. Supreme Court’s action blocks the return of “Golden Week” in Ohio.
The Republican Party spearheaded massive purges of black voters during the last decade. In 2004, 24.96% of all the voters in the City of Cleveland were purged from the voting rolls. In predominantly black wards in that city as many as 51% had their names removed from the voter registration list.
In violation of standard Ohio protocol, 305,000 voters were purged in the 2004 presidential year, primarily in the black wards of Toledo, Cleveland and Cincinnati. The Free Press documented 1.25 million voters purged, overwhelming in Ohio’s nine urban centers, between the 2004 and the 2008 elections. Many of these were re-registered by the Obama campaign and the now defunct ACORN organization, which advocated for poor and minority voting rights.
Between the 2008 and 2012 elections, an additional 1.1 million Ohio voters were purged according to public records obtained by the Free Press.
What Husted continues to fight for is the right to institutionalize the new Jim Crow, a blatant system of apartheid that suppresses black and minority voters that openly relies on absurd claims of fairness and equality.