Ohio Secretary of State John Husted recently issued a decision to restrict early voting in all counties to weekdays only. This has some people concerned as to the possible effect on voter turnout in low-income and minority communities. Not so one Repubican election board member who admitted thus in an email to the local paper:
Doug Preisse, chairman of the Republican Party in Franklin County, which contains the city of Columbus, admitted in an email to the Columbus Dispatch that black voters would now have a more difficult time voting:Yes! Fair and reasonable!I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine. Let’s be fair and reasonable.Preisse was one of the board of elections members who blocked Democratic efforts in Franklin County to expand voting hours to evenings and weekends. According to the Dispatch, he called claims of unfairness “bullshit. Quote me!”
There is reasonable cause for concern that this will prevent the "urban" population from voting, but Husted defended his decision by pointing to his sending out absentee ballots, something which is not popular in those areas. However studies show that absentee ballots are much more popular with Republicans, whereas Democrats preferred voting in person.
But from a political and perhaps cultural standpoint, not all absentee ballots are created equal. Republicans are much more likely to mail their absentee ballots, while Democrats (and African-Americans) prefer to cast their absentee ballots in person.At least Preisse was honest about his party's motivations.
Thus, when Husted expands absentee balloting by mail but shrinks the opportunity for in-person balloting, most Republican party leaders are happy but many Democrats howl.
A study by the Franklin County Board of Elections shows that 48 percent of early, in-person votes in 2008 were cast after hours on weekdays, on weekends or on the Monday before the election — almost none of which is available to 2012 voters.
And those late ballots came predominantly from blacks and Democrats, the research shows. In all, 8 percent of whites cast early in-person ballots, while 13.3 percent of blacks did, said the study, which used census data to estimate the racial breakdown of voters.
In-person voting was popular even though Franklin County was one of the few in Ohio to mail absentee ballot applications to all voters in 2008.
8:56 PM PT: Franklin County GOP Chairman Preisse stands by his remarks.
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Franklin County GOP Chairman Doug Preisse, a close ally of Governor John Kasich, said his comment — which provoked Democratic outrage — was simply straight talk.I mean seriously - just how far can one take this process of 'democracy'? There has to be a limit on these things!
Democrats "are trying to say that I had somehow consciously constrained hours for that purpose," Preisse said. "No, I am saying the opposite, that I am asking the question, and I am indeed questioning how far this process of democratic, small ‘d’, democratic voting process should be contorted to favor a political operation. I don’t think we should go overboard in doing that."
Preisse's comment to today's Columbus Dispatch were taken as a smoking gun by Democrats and progressives, who said — as one liberal Ohio blogger wrote — that Preisse had acknowledged an effort to "suppress black voters."
Preisse scoffed at the criticism, telling BuzzFeed of a disputed voting plan put forth by Republican Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, "I believe it should be easy to vote, and I believe that under this plan it is.
"I believe that Republicans and Democrats of good will can have a difference of opinion, an honest difference of opinion here, but I also believe that there is no question that the forces of Obama and the other side of the aisle would love to just throw the barn doors open and have 24-hour voting and just go too far in the other direction," Preisse said. "It seems to me we can have a reasonable discussion about this."