After the Democrats had their asses handed to them in 2010, the Ohio GOP went full Monty. Monty Burns, that is. “Excellent”, echoed through the halls of power in Columbus. They saw the prize. Redistricting was about to start. And the GOP had a lock on it. Majorities in both Houses and all the statewide offices.
The GOP proceeded to redraw the electoral map of Ohio.
Secret hotel rooms that cost taxpayers nearly 10 grand. Holding the bill until the fall. Locking out Democrats from the process. All of this is straight from the Lee Atwater/Dick Cheney/Karl Rove political course work in power seizing and control.
The resulting district map showed Ohio gerrymandered to within an inch of its political life. The Ohio 9th congressional district swallowed the 10th, forcing long time Dems Kaptur and Kucinich to duke it out in a primary. Kaptur won. The district may be one of the nation’s most gerrymandered. It stretches from Toledo to Cleveland. In places along Lake Erie, it looks to be only about six inches wide.
Ohio redistricting was an example of a larger GOP strategy. Ensure Republican controlled states stayed that way. Marginalize the Democratic Party and create de facto one party rule until the next census.
Part of this quest to make Ohio a one-party State resulted in the infamous SB 5. If you break the backs of the unions, and keep them from donating to the Dems, you can strangle the opposition party as any kind of moderating force. They soon realized they’d gone too far and Ohio wasn’t going to crush unions anytime soon.
In 2012, after the new districts were in play, the GOP realized they had a Democratic president poised to take Ohio. And an effective Democratic senator about to be reelected. This, in spite of vicious campaign ads run by outside groups. Time to break out an old standby.
The Ohio legislature decided to gut the reforms put in place after the 2008 debacle. They cut early voting days. Made it harder to get an absentee ballot. Instituted voter ID restrictions. When they saw a ballot drive gathering signatures at a near-record pace to repeal the law (as was done with SB5), the Ohio House and Senate repealed the statute. This was done to avoid a second embarrassing loss.
If you can’t get the vote, keep the opposition from voting. Enter Secretary of State Jon Husted.
In Ohio there are 88 County Boards of Election (BOE). Each is made up of two members from the two major parties. This is to theoretically prevent shenanigans. If the board has a vote on, say, early voting and ties, the Secretary of State votes to break the tie.
Just last Friday, Husted sided with Republicans on the Hamilton County Board of Elections who wanted to move their downtown early voting center to a location in the suburbs with almost non-existent access to public transportation.
And during the 2012 election, for example, Husted consistently sided with Republican BOE members in urban, Democratic-leaning, or flat out Dem counties. In the rural, GOP-dominated counties, Husted let the GOP keep early voting intact. It wasn’t until this disparity was pointed out in the national press that Husted issued a directive to limit weekday early voting hours and eliminate weekend voting hours statewide.
Since early voting on the final weekend was part of a different law, Husted’s ban on voting resulted in a political firestorm. A federal judge struck down the ban. Husted dragged his feet, getting reprimanded by the federal judge and threatened with contempt if he didn’t obey the order. SCOTUS declined to hear the appeal and Husted was forced to allow voting on the final weekend.
President Obama carried Ohio, with a substantial margin, which resulted in the lovely melt down on Fox News by Karl Rove.
Not to be deterred by election results, the Ohio GOP/Tea Party controlled Legislature has decided if you can’t win, change the rules.
Ohio has just eliminated the so-called “Golden Week” where one can register and vote at the same time. Another prohibits the 88 county election boards from mailing out unasked-for absentee ballot applications or paying return postage on absentee ballot applications. The number of required voting machines was reduced, conjuring memories of 2004 long lines.
And today, Husted issued state-wide early voting hours for November’s election, and he eliminated Sunday voting, which is favored by African Americans. In recent election years, many churches held a “souls to the polls” day in which the church provided transportation to early voting locations after Sunday church services. These voters are overwhelmingly Democratic.
Ohio’s GOP has simply gone for the “make it too hard to vote and we win” line of attack. Were poll taxes and literacy tests still legal they likely would have wound up in the bill. The GOP says these laws stop nonexistent voter fraud and make elections fair. (Fair=GOP winning).
They also have learned enough to spread these laws out over several bills to make a referendum tougher to pull off. Expect law suits. It appears to be 2012 all over again. These guys love beating a dead horse.