OH Secretary of State Asks Supreme Court To Suppress Early Voting

You’d think a public official whose job is to supervise free and fair elections would be focused on ensuring that every eligible voter has a meaningful chance to vote and that every vote is counted as cast.

Sadly, in Ohio, you’d be wrong.

Jon Husted, Ohio’s secretary of state, is making it his business to gum up the machinery of democracy in the Buckeye state. He’s been fighting for months to limit access to early voting, which helps tens of thousands of Ohioans with disabilities, or jobs that keep them busy during normal voting hours, participate in elections.

Even after a federal appeals court reinstated equal access to early voting for all Ohioans, in a ruling last Friday, Husted is saying no; he’s appealing the 6th Circuit’s decision to the Supreme Court.

In a press release, Husted called the decision “an unprecedented intrusion by the federal courts into how states run elections.” He also complained that the decision would allow each of Ohio’s 88 counties to determine on its own whether or not to offer early voting, saying “how any court could consider this a remedy to an equal protection problem is stunning.”

However, Husted’s past actions show that he’s no fan of equal protection, especially when it comes to voting rights. Just this past August, Husted came was caught trying to limit early voting in the predominantly Democratic counties that contain Ohio’s largest cities while expanding it in smaller majority-Republican precincts.

And once public outcry kept him from getting his way, Husted spent the next month trying to restrict early voting across the board. He rebranded himself as a champion for “uniform hours,” but of course, he neglected to mention that these hours would be much less than Ohioans were used to.

About 90,000 Ohioans used the three days of early voting before the election Husted plans to axe—people who work two jobs may not be able to make it to the polls during standard hours, and church groups often organize early voting shuttles after weekend religious services for people who lack adequate transportation.

Husted and his allies are ignoring what Tova Wang, a veteran election watcher at Demos, has called the “Voter Inclusion Principle”—election law should be oriented towards increasing and facilitating participation by eligible voters, not hindering them. When people with disabilities, working class people, veterans, and other folks typically left out of the national debate have a harder time casting their votes, democratic elections meant to guarantee equality end up deepening social stratification.

It’s understandable why partisans want to restrict voting rights of folks they disagree with–Ohio is a crucial battleground state in the upcoming presidential election, and a new Rasmussen poll shows that its Senate race is neck and neck as well.

That shouldn’t matter though, the right of every American to have their voice heard in our democracy should supersede any political concerns. Common Cause remains on the front lines of the fight to make sure everyone’s vote is counted, and that our nation keeps moving forward, not backward, on voting rights.

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