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Context of 'August 17, 2012: Ohio Secretary of State Suspends Democrats from County Elections Board; Democrats Insisted on Longer Early-Voting Hours'

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Hundreds of thousands of voters in Miami-Dade County go to the polls to cast their votes for president. Two of its precincts, 255 and 535, are over 88 percent Democrat and over 90 percent African-American. The 20 punch-card machines designated for the two precincts were tested beforehand and certified as working properly, but in the hours before the polls open, a worker at Precinct 255 does a test and finds that seven of the 10 machines do not accept punch-card votes for president. Precinct clerk Donna Rogers will later claim that no one tells her of the problems with the machines, but by the end of the day, 113 of the 868 ballots cast do not register a vote for president. Of the votes that do register in the precinct, over 99 percent of them go to Democrat Al Gore. At Precinct 535, six of the 10 machines fail to register votes for president during test runs. Of the 820 ballots cast in this precinct, 105 do not register a vote for president. Gore wins over 98 percent of this precinct’s votes. The 13 percent “discarded ballot,” or “undervote,” rate for these two precincts is by far the largest in Miami-Dade. [Tapper, 3/2001] A later attempt to hand-count the ballots in question is forcibly prevented by an orchestrated “riot” by conservative activists and political aides at the Miami-Dade elections office (see 9:00 a.m. and after, November 22, 2000).

Entity Tags: Donna Rogers, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., County of Miami-Dade (Florida)

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections, Civil Liberties

Lawyers for the Gore presidential campaign and local Democrats say they intend to sue the Seminole County elections supervisor. In this county, Republican Party workers were permitted to correct errors on thousands of applications for absentee ballots for Republicans, in what Democrats call illegal ballot tampering. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/17/2000] Subsequent investigations show that Seminole elections officials and Republican Party workers corrected data on absentee ballots that showed votes for Republican George W. Bush, while throwing away flawed absentee ballots that showed votes for Democrat Al Gore. Republican Party operatives worked unsupervised in Seminole County offices for 10 days preceding the November 7 vote; those offices house the county’s computer database of voters. It is not known if the operatives attempted to access that database. County elections supervisor Sandra Goard later says in a sworn statement that she does not know the identity of one of the two Republican operatives given access to the absentee ballots and the computer rooms. After the absentee ballots were counted into the county’s tallies, Seminole County showed a 5,000-vote lead for Bush over Gore. [Consortium News, 11/27/2000]

Entity Tags: County of Seminole (Florida), Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Sandra Goard, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

A Florida absentee ballot.A Florida absentee ballot. [Source: SaintPetersBlog (.com)]The Bush and Gore campaigns begin a weeks-long wrangle over the issue of Florida’s absentee ballots. The deadline for counting absentee ballots received from citizens overseas is November 17 (see 12:00 a.m., November 17, 2000). Rumors of large numbers of military absentee ballots, presumably favoring Bush in number, and a large number of ballots from American Jews in Israel, presumably favoring Gore, have swirled for days among the media and in both campaigns. Gore campaign lawyer Mark Herron compiles a long memo on the rules governing absentee ballots to Democratic lawyers at each of the 67 county canvassing boards; a copy of the memo is obtained by a Republican legal team, and soon Bush spokespersons are quoting from it to accuse the Gore campaign of attempting to disenfranchise Americans in uniform. The Gore campaign sends vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman (D-CT) onto the Sunday morning television talk shows to shore up its position, and Lieberman protests that the campaign would never do anything to disenfranchise soldiers. Lieberman says that in his opinion, the most permissive standards should be applied to the absentee ballots. Herron and other Gore lawyers are dismayed by Lieberman’s position, as these standards would admit a larger influx of absentee ballots, the majority of which they believe will go to Bush. Okaloosa County, a Panhandle county with six military bases, becomes a center of the controversy. Lawyers from both campaigns and both parties attempt to wrangle the issue among themselves and the Okaloosa elections board, often becoming pushy and confrontational. Bush lawyers insist that the rules should be, in essence, jettisoned and all absentee ballots admitted regardless of postmarks, valid numbers and addresses, etc.; Okaloosa elections supervisor Pat Hollarn, a centrist Republican, refuses. “I told them not only no but hell no,” she later recalls. A 2004 Vanity Fair article will note, “At the same time, in the more Democratic counties, Bush lawyers were arguing just as passionately that rules should be strictly adhered to and any questionable ballots put aside.” After the wrangling has settled and the ballots are counted (see 12:00 a.m., November 17, 2000), Bush wins a net gain of 123 votes. [Vanity Fair, 10/2004]

Entity Tags: County of Okaloosa (Florida), Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, Pat Hollarn, Mark Herron, Joseph Lieberman, George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Florida Democrats sue the Seminole County Canvassing Board in state court for including absentee ballots in the vote totals that they say did not satisfy the provisions of 101.62 of the Florida Election Code (see November 15-17, 2000). These provisions require that a citizen requesting an absentee ballot provide the elector’s registration number on their application. [Leip, 2008] The Seminole County elections supervisor allowed Republican Party workers to correct thousands of Republican ballots to allow them to be counted (see November 12, 2000).

Entity Tags: County of Seminole (Florida), Al Gore presidential campaign 2000

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Florida’s presidential vote tallies are adjusted, in line with state law, to reflect absentee ballots (see 12:00 a.m., November 17, 2000 and November 15-17, 2000). The slim lead belonging to George W. Bush (R-TX—see Evening, November 14, 2000) expands to 930 votes; Bush picks up 1,380 votes and Vice President Al Gore (D-TN) picks up 750 votes. [US News and World Report, 12/13/2000; Leip, 2008] After the modified vote tallies are announced, Bush campaign officials begin publicly complaining of manual-recount irregularities. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/17/2000] Three Florida counties are either engaged in manual recounts or are preparing to recount (see November 17, 2000, 3:40 p.m. November 15, 2000, and 3:00 p.m., November 16, 2000).

Entity Tags: George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Bush campaign attorneys note that all the absentee ballots have been tallied (see November 18, 2000 and November 15-17, 2000). They ask the Florida Supreme Court to just instruct the State of Florida to name a winner of its presidential election (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000). [US News and World Report, 12/13/2000]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Palm Beach County, Florida, Judge Jorge Labarga rules that he has no constitutional authority to order a re-vote in that county due to use of the controversial “butterfly ballot” (see November 14, 2000). Two days later, Laborga rules that ballots with so-called “dimpled chads” (punch-card ballots whose punch holes, or “chads,” are dented, as if the voter attempted and failed to push the paper through the hole entirely and thus register a vote) cannot be summarily excluded from the Palm Beach manual recount. However, officials can reject questionable ballots if the voter’s intent cannot be determined. [US News and World Report, 12/13/2000; Jurist, 2003; Leip, 2008; Circuit Court of the 15th Judicial Circuit, In and For Palm Beach County, Florida, 11/20/2008 pdf file] Apparently, ballots with “dimpled chads” legally indicate voter intent to vote for that particular candidate.

Entity Tags: Jorge Labarga, County of Palm Beach (Florida)

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Both the Bush and Gore campaigns send veteran politicians and military veterans to argue for and against the acceptance of military absentee ballots that may not meet the criteria for acceptance under the law (see November 12, 2000, November 15-17, 2000, and November 18, 2000). For George W. Bush, Senator Bob Dole (R-KS) argues for their inclusion. Vietnam War veteran Senator Bob Kerrey (D-NE) argues against their inclusion; Kerrey also tells reporters that Al Gore “understands that he may be the loser in Florida.” [US News and World Report, 12/13/2000]

Entity Tags: Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, Robert J. (“Bob”) Dole, George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, Bob Kerrey

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Bush campaign lawyers file a motion to force the inclusion of hundreds of overseas ballots, mostly from soldiers serving at overseas duty stations, that lacked the proper postmark or signatures (see November 15-17, 2000). On November 24, Florida Republicans from the state legislature will join the Bush effort. [US News and World Report, 12/13/2000] Three days later, they will drop the suit (see 7:00 p.m. November 25, 2000).

Entity Tags: George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Bush supporters in Florida celebrate Katherine Harris’s decision to certify Bush as the winner of the 2000 election.Bush supporters in Florida celebrate Katherine Harris’s decision to certify Bush as the winner of the 2000 election. [Source: Salon]Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, the co-chair of Florida’s Bush campaign team (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000 and After), certifies George W. Bush (R-TX) the winner of Florida’s presidential election, though according to a Florida Supreme Court ruling she can choose to accept recount tallies through November 27 (see November 20-21, 2000). She chooses not to do so. Harris says Bush has a 537-vote lead. Her totals are: Bush, 2,912,790; Vice President Al Gore (D-TN), 2,912,253. The totals include none of the recounted ballots from either Palm Beach or Miami-Date Counties, both of which did not complete their recounts by Harris’s deadline (see 9:00 a.m. and after, November 22, 2000 and 2:45 p.m. November 26, 2000). Ongoing legal actions by both parties keep the election in doubt. Regardless, Governor Jeb Bush, George W. Bush’s brother, signs the Certificate of Ascertainment designating 25 Florida electors pledged to George W. Bush and transmits the document to the National Archives as required by Title 3, US Code, Section 6. Three days later, a Florida legislative committee will recommend a special session to name the state’s 25 representatives to the Electoral College, where they will presumably cast their votes for Bush. [US News and World Report, 12/13/2000; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/17/2000; Leip, 2008] If Bush is indeed the winner of the Florida presidential election, he has enough electoral votes to assume the presidency (see November 9, 2000). The Gore campaign refuses to accept Harris’s certification, and says it will ask Florida courts to order recounts of thousands of disputed votes. Gore’s running mate Joe Lieberman says, “This evening, the secretary of state of Florida has decided to certify what—by any reasonable standard—is an incomplete and inaccurate count of the votes cast in the state of Florida.” The Gore campaign is working out details of what will be a formal “contest” of the results, and will ask a state judge to order court-appointed “special masters” to complete interrupted recounts of about 2,000 uncounted votes in Palm Beach County and 10,700 uncounted votes in Miami-Dade County. They also want an inquiry into the Nassau County returns, where Gore officials believe Bush was wrongly credited with some 51 votes, and are considering challenging the legality of Palm Beach’s controversial “butterfly ballots.” Gore’s chief lawyer David Boies says: “We’re preparing contest papers that will be filed Monday, as early in the day as we can get them done. Until these votes are counted, this election cannot be over.” Republicans intend to use Harris’s ruling to publicly pressure Gore into conceding the election, pressure the Gore campaign says it is prepared to combat. Miami-Dade County, expected to yield enough votes in a recount to swing the election in favor of Gore, called off its recount under pressure from Republican protesters and due to time constraints (see 9:00 a.m. and after, November 22, 2000). [Salon, 11/25/2000; Guardian, 11/27/2000; Guardian, 11/28/2000] Investigative reporter Robert Parry will later write that Harris deliberately allowed Nassau County to throw out its recounted figures that gave Gore the 51 votes. [Consortium News, 8/5/2002] A brief furor ensues when some media outlets mistakenly report that 500 absentee ballots “not previously counted” were discovered in Broward County. The story is not true. [Salon, 11/25/2000] According to state law, it is only now that Gore can ask for a statewide recount. [Vanity Fair, 10/2004] Former President Jimmy Carter tells a reporter: “More than two weeks will remain before Florida’s 25 electors will have to be named, and then two more months before a new president will be sworn into office. We must not sacrifice speed for accuracy in deciding who has been chosen by the voters to take that oath.” [Salon, 11/25/2000]

Entity Tags: Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, Florida Supreme Court, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., County of Miami-Dade (Florida), County of Broward (Florida), George W. Bush, County of Palm Beach (Florida), Katherine Harris, Robert Parry, James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr., George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, Joseph Lieberman, John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Refusing to accept the certification of George W. Bush as the winner of the Florida presidential election (see 7:30 p.m. November 26, 2000), Vice President Al Gore’s campaign files an election contest action challenging the election results in Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, and Nassau Counties. Gore campaign officials believe Gore was denied a net gain of over 1,100 uncounted votes in Palm Beach and 750 in Miami-Dade (see November 7, 2000). In Nassau, Gore officials believe Bush was wrongly credited with 51 votes. “The vote totals reported in the election canvassing commission’s certification of November 26, 2000, are wrong,” Gore lawyers allege in court filings. It is the first formal contest challenge in the history of US presidential elections. The case is assigned by random computer selection to Judge N. Saunders Sauls. Gore lawyers also challenge vote totals in three Florida counties, and ask a state judge to order a manual recount of some 13,000 ballots in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties that showed no votes for president on machine runs (so-called “undervotes”). Gore lawyers also file an emergency motion to accelerate the contest proceedings, a motion that Bush lawyers will challenge the next day. Bush campaign lawyers file an appeals court motion seeking to delay oral arguments in a pending federal case challenging Florida’s hand recounts. A Seminole County lawsuit seeking to throw out some 4,700 absentee ballots for technical reasons (see November 12, 2000, November 15-17, 2000, and November 17, 2000) is moved to a state court in Leon County, which is also hearing the Gore campaign’s certification challenges. And a lawsuit challenging the validity of Palm Beach County’s “butterfly ballot” (see 10:46 a.m. November 20 - November 22, 2000) goes to the Florida Supreme Court, which will reject the suit on December 1. [Guardian, 11/28/2000; US News and World Report, 12/13/2000; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/17/2000; Leip, 2008]

Entity Tags: County of Seminole (Florida), County of Leon (Florida), Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, County of Miami-Dade (Florida), County of Palm Beach (Florida), George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, N. Saunders Sauls, George W. Bush, County of Nassau (Florida)

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Five minutes before the start of the Monday Night Football broadcast, Vice President Al Gore delivers a brief, nationally televised address defending his decision to contest the election (see November 27, 2000). “Our Constitution matters more than convenience,” he tells viewers. All he wants, he says, is “a complete count of all the votes cast in Florida,” noting that “many thousands of votes… have not yet been counted at all, not once.” [US News and World Report, 12/13/2000]

Entity Tags: Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr.

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

A “Select Committee” of the Florida State Legislature meets to discuss appointing its own slate of electors to vote for George W. Bush in the Electoral College.A “Select Committee” of the Florida State Legislature meets to discuss appointing its own slate of electors to vote for George W. Bush in the Electoral College. [Source: C-SPAN]A Florida legislative committee dominated by Republicans debates on whether the legislature should call a special session to appoint its own slate of electors to vote in the US Electoral College. The Republicans fear that Democrat Al Gore, with help from Florida courts, might block Republican George W. Bush from winning Florida’s electoral votes (see November 27, 2000). [US News and World Report, 12/13/2000]

Entity Tags: Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., George W. Bush, US Electoral College, Florida State Legislature

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Vice President Al Gore leaves the vice-presidential residence in Washington and publicly asks the Bush campaign to stop trying to “run out the clock” on further recounts in Florida. “This is not a time for… procedural roadblocks,” Gore says (see November 27, 2000). [US News and World Report, 12/13/2000]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr.

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Florida Democratic voters file a lawsuit to throw out 9,773 absentee-ballot votes in Martin County; two-thirds of them are votes for George W. Bush. Democrats charge that, as in Seminole County (see November 12, 2000, November 15-17, 2000, and November 17, 2000), Republican officials illegally added voter ID numbers to Republican applications for absentee ballots, rendering the once-invalid ballots able to be counted. Judge Terry Lewis sets a trial date of December 6. [US News and World Report, 12/13/2000]

Entity Tags: County of Martin (Florida), Terry Lewis, George W. Bush, County of Seminole (Florida)

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

The Florida Supreme Court dismisses a petition from the Gore campaign to order an immediate recount of over 12,000 “undervotes” from Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. “Undervotes” are ballots that did not register a choice for president when run through the machine counter. An hour later, the same court rules that Palm Beach’s controversial “butterfly ballot” is legal (see 7:00 a.m. November 7, 2000 and After and November 27, 2000). [US News and World Report, 12/13/2000]

Entity Tags: Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, Florida Supreme Court, County of Palm Beach (Florida), County of Miami-Dade (Florida)

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Two lawsuits filed by Florida Democrats challenging the validity of some Florida absentee ballots are heard in Tallahassee. Judge Nikki Clark hears the Seminole County absentee ballot case (see November 12, 2000, November 15-17, 2000, November 17, 2000, and November 27, 2000) and Judge Terry Lewis presides over a similar challenge filed against Martin County ballots. (The Gore campaign has declined to join either lawsuit, though Vice President Al Gore has said it “doesn’t seem fair to me” that Republicans but not Democratic operatives in those counties were allowed to add and correct voter ID numbers on absentee ballot applications. The Bush campaign has joined the opposing side of both lawsuits.) Both Clark and Lewis reject the lawsuits. The Florida Supreme Court will uphold their rulings. [US News and World Report, 12/13/2000; Leip, 2008] Democratic leaders are beginning to edge away from continued support for Gore’s attempts to secure the election. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) says, “This is coming to an end.” A George W. Bush presidency, he says, “looks more and more” likely. [Guardian, 12/8/2000]

Entity Tags: Nikki Clark, County of Martin (Florida), Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., County of Seminole (Florida), George W. Bush, Richard (“Dick”) Durbin, Terry Lewis, Florida Supreme Court

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Federal District Court Judge Lacey Collier rules that Florida must count overseas absentee ballots even if they lack a postmark as required by Florida Election Code 101.62 (see November 15-17, 2000). [Leip, 2008] On November 20, Florida Attorney General Robert Butterworth, a Democrat and the chairman of the Gore campaign in Florida, said that those ballots should be counted. [National Journal, 11/9/2000; US News and World Report, 12/13/2000]

Entity Tags: Robert Butterworth, Lacey Collier

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

In Franklin County, there are reports that people have received prank phone calls providing false information about the upcoming elections. For example, in one case, a man claiming to be from the Board of Elections called a elderly couple in the North Side precinct and said that their voting site had been changed and that they would need to go to a South Side precinct to vote. In other cases, the caller has offered to pick up an absentee-ballot application for the voter, deliver the ballot to the voter and then submit the completed ballot to the elections office. [Columbus Dispatch, 10/22/2004]

Timeline Tags: 2004 Elections

In Ohio, the Lake County Board of Elections issues a notice warning that some of the county’s newly registered voters have received phony letters claiming that the recipients may have been registered illegally and consequently may not be eligible to vote in the November 2004 elections. The unsigned fake letter, dated October 22 and printed on stationary that looks similar to that of the board, reads: “[I]ndependent efforts by the NAACP, America Coming Together, John Kerry for President and the Capri Cafaro for Congress campaigns have been illegally registering people to vote and apply for absentee ballots…. If you have been registered by any of these entities then you may run the risk of being illegally registered to vote. Please be advised that if you were registered in this capacity, that you will not be able to vote until the next election.” [Anonymous, 10/22/2004; News Channel 5 (Cleveland), 10/28/2004; Washington Post, 10/31/2004]

Entity Tags: Lake County Board of Elections (Ohio)

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2004 Elections

In Lebanon, Ohio, Warren County officials close the county administration building to the public where the vote is being tallied. The lockdown—the only one to occur in the state—is a result of a decision that was made during a closed-door meeting the previous week (See October 28, 2004). Warren County Emergency Services Director Frank Young had recommended the increased security because of information received from the US Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/5/2004] An FBI agent reportedly said that Warren County ranked a “10” on a terrorism scale of 1 to 10. The threat was said to be of domestic origins. [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/10/2004] But these claims are later challenged when officials from the FBI and DHS say that they were not aware of any such threats. Media organizations protest the lockdown, arguing that the officials are violating the law and the public’s rights. “The media should have been permitted into the area where there was counting,” Enquirer attorney Jack Greiner complains. “This is a process that should be done in complete transparency and it wasn’t.” In other Ohio counties, such as Butler County, people are permitted to observe ballot checkers through a window. In past elections, the Warren County commissioners’ room was open to the public so they could observe the process. [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/3/2004; Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/5/2004] The news director at WCPO-TV, Bob Morford, says he’s suspicious of the decision to close the building to the public. I’ve “never seen anything like it,” he says. “Frankly, we consider that a red herring…. That’s something that’s put up when you don’t know what else to put up to keep us out.” [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/5/2004] Additionally, election officials fail to set up an area with telephones for the media as they were supposed to. When reporters attempt to enter the building, they are refused, although they are later permitted into the building’s lobby located two floors below the elections office. The Associated Press, which has reporters at every Ohio board of elections site, says that Warren County is the only county to implement such tight restrictions. County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel claims that having reporters and photographers around could interfere with the vote count. [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/5/2004] It is later explained that these restrictions were also due to homeland security concerns. [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/10/2004]

Entity Tags: Jack Greiner, Rachel Hutzel, Bob Morford

Timeline Tags: 2004 Elections

In Ohio, Matthew Damschroder, director of Franklin County Board of Elections, reports that an error with its electronic voting system gave President Bush 3,893 extra votes in Precinct 1B in Gahanna where only 638 voters were known to have cast ballots. The actual tally of Bush votes was 365. [Associated Press, 11/5/2004; Columbus Dispatch, 11/5/2004; Associated Press, 11/6/2004] Franklin is the only Ohio county where the older-style touchscreen voting system manufactured by Danaher Controls Inc.‘s ELECTronic 1242 is used. [Associated Press, 11/5/2004]

Entity Tags: Matthew Damschroder

Timeline Tags: 2004 Elections

Ohio Governor John Kasich (R-OH) signs a sweeping election measure that may, if it goes into effect, prevent hundreds of thousands of Ohio citizens from voting in November. Parts of the law are being challenged in court, and an effort to repeal it via a voter referendum is underway. The law shortens Ohio’s early voting period, bans in-person early voting on Sunday (a measure many believe is designed to thwart the historic “Souls to the Polls” activities often used by African-American churches to help their congregations vote), and prohibits boards of election from mailing absentee ballot requests to voters. Democrats in the Ohio legislature fought against the bill, but were outvoted in the final votes in both chambers. Former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (D-OH) says the law places undue barriers on voters and must be repealed. “It’s an accumulation of small procedural changes that add up to be the potential for long lines, dissatisfied voters, and less certainty on election results,” she says. Many of the law’s provisions came from current Secretary of State Jon Husted (R-OH). He has argued that Ohio’s 88 counties need uniform voter procedures. He claims the law has no political aspects nor any political ramifications. Brunner and other critics admit that parts of the bill are positive, particularly language that brings Ohio’s elections laws in line with federal court decisions, and they do not intend to challenge the law’s moving the state’s presidential primary from March to May. Provisions being challenged include:
bullet reducing the early-voting window from the current 35 days before Election Day to 21 days for voting by mail and 17 days for voting in person, eliminating the so-called “golden week” when people could register and vote on the same day;
bullet limiting Saturday in-person, early voting from 8 a.m. to noon and banning Sunday voting outright;
bullet prohibiting in-person early voting the weekend before Election Day;
bullet banning local boards of elections from mailing unsolicited absentee ballot requests to voters and prohibiting the boards from paying the return postage on the applications or ballots; and
bullet specifying that poll workers may—but are not required—to tell voters they are in the wrong precinct. [American Civil Liberties Union, 2011; Associated Press, 7/15/2011; Columbus Dispatch, 7/29/2011]
The law does not contain a controversial voter ID provision, but House Republicans want the Senate to pass a separate photo ID requirement later in July. The Senate seems to be leaning towards allowing a voter ID provision, but giving voters without the “proper” identification the alternative of casting a provisional ballot, a measure supported by Husted. Representative Lou Blessing (R-OH) says, “It’s almost ludicrous to think anyone is being suppressed” by the bill. [Columbus Dispatch, 7/29/2011] Many critics find the provision that allows poll workers to refuse to help voters to be particularly onerous. State Senator Nina Turner (D-OH) notes, “Voting in the wrong precinct led to over 14,000 registered voters statewide [losing] their vote in 2008,” a statement rated “true” by the nonpartisan fact-checking organization PolitiFact. Most of those votes were cast in what the Cleveland Plain Dealer called “urban and impoverished areas of the state,” which traditionally lean Democratic. Turner says of state Republicans, “I guess the loss of votes for some doesn’t matter.” [Think Progress, 7/5/2011] Overall, the Columbus Dispatch will conclude that some 234,000 voters in Columbus alone who successfully cast their ballots in 2008 would find themselves either entirely disenfranchised by the new law or facing new hurdles to casting their votes. Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH) says the law overturns many of the reform measures passed after the 2004 elections, when many critics believe voter restrictions had a huge impact on the outcome in the presidential election in Ohio. “The only reason to limit these requirements is to limit voting and to strip targeted populations of their right to vote,” she says. “Anyone who values our democracy can understand why it is necessary to make voting easier for citizens, not more difficult.” Ohio Board of Elections chairman Doug Preisse, who chairs the Franklin County Republican Party, is also concerned about the new bill. “I could quibble with a few aspects because I’m looking at it from the challenge of running elections in a big county,” he says. “Did they get it right this time? I’m not sure.” [Think Progress, 7/25/2011]

Entity Tags: Cleveland Plain Dealer, Columbus Dispatch, Doug Preisse, Jon Husted, Jennifer Brunner, John Kasich, Marcia Fudge, Lou Blessing, Nina Turner

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2012 Elections

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R-OH) suspends the two Democrats on the Montgomery County Board of Elections after they refuse to give ground in a conflict over extended in-person early voting hours for the November 2012 election. The elections boards in each Ohio county are made up of two Republicans and two Democrats. Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie Sr. must appear at a hearing in Columbus that will determine whether Husted will remove them from office. Husted’s action is announced in a letter delivered to each of the two, which reads in part, “You leave me no choice but to begin the process necessary to remove you as members of the Montgomery County Board of Elections.” Early voting for Ohio citizens begins on October 2. The debate over in-person absentee voting, often called early voting, has been rancorous in some counties. In counties with strong Republican majorities, both Republicans and Democrats have voted to extend early voting hours for those counties’ residents. But in counties with strong Democratic majorities, Republicans have voted against extending those same voting hours. By law, Husted must cast the tie-breaking votes for those counties, and he has always voted against the voting hour extensions. Democrats in Ohio and other states were furious, saying that Husted was conspiring to dilute the Democratic vote in Ohio; Husted’s explanations have been that his votes saved Ohio money and that voters in those counties had “sufficient time already” for voting. Husted eventually agreed on uniform early voting hours for all 88 of Ohio’s counties, but the uniform hours fail to include weekend hours. Today, before his suspension, Lieberman proposed that Montgomery County continue to offer weekend voting hours, saying that Husted’s directive on the issue did not specifically forbid it. After a heated discussion, the Montgomery elections board voted 2-2 on the issue, sending the matter to Husted. Within hours, Husted replied with a sharply worded letter to the board forbidding the weekend voting hours, ordering the board to meet again that afternoon and rescind the motion, and threatened board members opposing his directive with firing. In the afternoon meeting, Lieberman refuses to rescind his motion. He is joined by Ritchie. Both are suspended later in the afternoon. Lieberman says during the discussion: “I believe that this is so critical to our freedom in America, and to individual rights to vote, that I am doing what I think is right, and I cannot vote to rescind this motion. In 10 years, I’ve never received a threat that if I don’t do what they want me to do, I could be fired. I find this reprehensible.” Republican board member Greg Gantt says during the Friday meeting that he has no intention of challenging Husted on this issue. When Lieberman compares Gantt’s position to that taken at the 1947 Nuremberg trials by Nazi war criminals, Gantt becomes irate, saying: “That’s not called for. Rescind the motion or not and let’s get out of here. I’m not going to sit here and listen to comments like that.… I am so disappointed that we’ve had such a great rapport on this board for the past decade, but it’s all [gone].” Lieberman retorts that Gantt has mocked Democrats’ concerns about being disenfranchised in previous discussions, saying, “I’m sorry if I’ve offended you Greg, but when you refer to our arguments as ‘hypothetical crap,’ I think you should expect some push back, and you got it.” Dozens of county residents attend the meeting, and their comments generally mirror the discussion among board members. Resident Elaine Herrick downplays any hardship caused by the restricted early hours, while Reverend Marty McMichael of a local Methodist Church says the refusal will deny some citizens the opportunity to vote, and predicts: “Whatever happens here today, the community will be strengthened by it. Because either the right thing will happen or the wrong thing will happen, and then we will make our voices known.” After he and Lieberman are suspended, Ritchie says that neither of the Republicans on the board moved to rescind his motion either, and he asks why they, too, were not suspended. “I intend to fight this,” he says. “I already have been in contact with legal counsel, and I’ll be prepared [at the hearing] to answer [Husted’s] allegations.” Ritchie calls the elimination of weekend voting “a continued attempt to suppress Americans from exercising their right to vote.” It is a tradition in many African-American churches for their congregations to go en masse to vote on the Sunday before the scheduled election—sometimes nicknamed “Souls to the Polls”—a tradition that will not be observed this election if Husted’s ruling stands. After suspending Lieberman and Ritchie, Husted announces that he has broken the Montgomery County tie, rejecting the weekend voting, and threatens other board members with suspension and possible firing if they cast their votes for weekend voting times. [Dayton Daily News, 8/17/2012; Buzzfeed, 8/17/2012]

Entity Tags: Marty McMichael, Dennis Lieberman, Elaine Herrick, Montgomery County (Ohio) Board of Elections, Greg Gantt, Tom Ritchie, Sr., Jon Husted

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

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