But it didn't make a lot of Ohio Republicans happy because one of the things it worked to do was increase the turnout of Democratic voters. Barack Obama won, two long-time GOP seats in Congress fell to Democrats and Democrats won a majority in the Ohio House of Representatives for the first time in 14 years. Much of the larger turnout came in the very urban areas where voters in 2004 left the long queues at the polls and went home before casting a ballot.
Lesson: When you give working-class people more opportunity to vote, they are more likely to do so. Or, alternatively, democracy sucks.
Republicans took the latter view, and since 2010, they've been determined to make sure 2008 doesn't happen again by sharply cutting back early-voting hours, particularly those hours that do the most good for working class urban voters, a large proportion of whom are black. We've been discussing the details for months in our War on Voting series.
The state legislature eliminated the three days of early voting right before election day. (The Obama administration is contesting that move in the courts.) County election boards with the help of tie-breaking votes by Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted had until last week been approving extended early voting in Republican-dominated counties and rejecting them in counties dominated by Democrats. Under pressure, Husted issued a directive last week for all 88 counties. His directive allows for no weekend voting and very limited early voting on weeknights.
If the intent of this Republican effort wasn't absolutely clear, Doug Preisse made it bluntly so over the weekend. Preisse is the chairman of the Republican Party in Franklyn County (Columbus) and a member of the county's board of elections. He voted against extending early voting hours:
“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban—read African-American—voter-turnout machine.”In other words ... well, we don't really need other words to understand what Preisse meant. It's all about suppressing the heavily Democratic urban and African American vote in order to to give Mitt Romney Ohio's electoral votes and gain whatever spin-off benefits this may have in down-ticket races. Flat-out partisanship. And something else, of course.
As Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said, "Doug Preisse cannot walk back his racially charged comments directed at African-American Ohioans because it is what he believes."
Preisse later told Chris Geldner:
"I believe it should be easy to vote, and I believe that under this plan it is.[...]The get-out-the-vote political operation in question is ensuring that people who have historically been kept from voting in various ways are given every chance to cast ballots now. Having the polls open on weekday evenings and on weekends is a big part of that. A report released Friday found that 197,000 votes were cast in 2008 during the evening and weekend hours now eliminated by the secretary of state and the state legislature.
"How far should the taxpayers be asked to go to accommodate that political operation? That’s where we’re having a difference of opinion."
So partisan is the voter suppression effort in Ohio that Husted has suspended two Democrats who he says violated his directive. Twice previously, the four-member Montgomery County board of elections had unanimously voted to extend early voting hours to weeknights and weekends. After Husted's directive was issued, the board voted again last Friday, but this time the two Republicans voted against extending the hours, the Democrats in favor. Husted broke the tie. But he went further, suspending the Democrats unless they agree to hold another meeting and take back their votes to extend the hours. More flat-out partisanship.
In Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Virginia, Iowa and elsewhere, Republicans are determined to win by hook or by crook. And if that means making it more difficult for voters who might throw a wrench into their plans, they are proving that they are perfectly will to do so without the slightest blush.