The Ohio Republican Party has moved on three key fronts to steal America's 2012 election in the Buckeye State. Ohio will once again emerge as the bloodiest in the swing state slugfest.
These moves may make it virtually impossible for Barack Obama to carry Ohio this November. In the years since Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004, the Democratic Party has made little headway in reforming our electoral system to make such thefts impossible:
1. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted blocked weekend voting and suspended the two Democratic Montgomery County (Dayton) board of election officials who voted to authorize weekend voting. 29,000 voters voted early in that county in 2008.
2. Since 2009, the Ohio GOP has successfully purged more than a million citizens from the state's voter rolls. This accounts for more than 15% of the roughly 5.2 million votes counted for president in the state in 2008. The purge focusses on counties that are predominantly urban and Democratic; See: The Free Press uncovers one million voters purged in Ohio3. Electronic voting machines have been installed throughout the state which are owned, operated, programmed and maintained -- and will be tallied by Republican-connected firms, including Diebold (now Premier), ES&S and Triad. See: Will "push and pray" voting prevail in 2012? The private companies behind the curtain: The great and powerful advocates of faith-based electronic voting.
The latest flare-up in Ohio, and we can expect many more, is over early
voting. Initially in Ohio, the Republican-dominated rural counties had
extended early voting hours while the mostly Democratic urban counties
failed to extend early voting hours beyond normal business hours Monday
through Friday. In the urban areas, the boards of elections, comprised
of four election officials -- two Republican appointments, two
Democratic appointments, deadlocked in the vote to extend hours 2-2.
On Wednesday, August 16, Ohio Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, per Ohio law, broke the deadlock by declaring that all counties follow uniform state early voting policy. Under his direction, all county boards of elections will be open from 8am-5pm during the first three weeks of early voting for the 2012 presidential election, and 8am-7pm for the last two weeks. Husted's directive made no mention of weekend voting that was so popular in 2008, particularly among African-American voters. Some urban African-American churches had sponsored voter registration and voting days around their Sunday services, sometimes busing voters to the polls for early voting after the church service.
In 2004, 10.6% of the votes cast in Ohio were so-called "early votes" via absentee ballots. A voter had to be absent from the county to vote absentee. In-person Election Day voters at the 42 predominantly black inner-city precincts in Columbus waited between 3-7 hours to vote.
In 2005, Ohio election law was modified after the infamous 2004 presidential election, and the state moved to absentee voting without the voter needing to be actually absent from the county. In the 2008 election, when Ohio went for Barack Obama with 52% of the vote, early voting nearly tripled to 29.7%. This included voters able to vote in person at locations all over the state for 35 days prior to Election Day, including on weekends.
Husted took credit for "leveling the playing field," but African-American State Representative Charleta Tavares immediately charged that the exclusion of weekend voting represented a deliberate attempt to suppress Democratic voters, and particularly black voters who voted 95% for Obama in 2008.
On Friday, August 17, Democrats Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie, Sr. were suspended by Husted from their Montgomery County Board of Elections positions for introducing and supporting a motion to hold weekend voting in their county. The vote, as expected, ended in a 2-2 tie among party lines. Husted demanded that the two Democrats vote to rescind the motion. Both refused. They were suspended and are to appear in Columbus for a hearing Monday August 20.
Lieberman told the Dayton Daily News that, "I believe that this is so critical to our freedom in America ... that I'm doing what I think is right, and I cannot vote to rescind this motion." Lieberman also argued that the directive did not specifically prohibit weekend hours.
Ohioans serving in the armed forces are allowed to early vote the last three days prior to Election Day, along with other Ohioans living overseas. The Obama campaign sued Ohio over this, challenging the legality of an Ohio law cutting three days from the early voting period for everyone except Ohio military personnel and Ohioans living overseas. Polls show that military personnel favor Romney by 21 points.
The Ohio Association of Election Officials, overwhelmingly dominated by Republicans from Ohio's rural counties, endorsed the idea of cutting the final three early voting days. They argued that they needed the extra time over the weekend to prepare for Election Day, although some of the counties have very small voting populations compared to the nine urban counties that support keeping the three final early voting days.
The Obama campaign argued that voting rights should be equal for all voters in Ohio. The Romney campaign immediately attacked Obama for trying to take voting rights away from the military. This would be virtually impossible under Ohio law, since it would require the re-convening of the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate and House, and both casting their vote to end military voting privileges.
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