On Wednesday Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, ordered all 88 counties in the state to only allow early voting Monday through Friday, until 7 p.m., during the final two weeks before the election. Weekend voting that resulted in a significant number of black voters casting votes in 2008 will not be allowed.
“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine,” Ohio GOP election official Doug Priesse said in an email to the “Columbus Dispatch” Sunday. “Let’s be fair and reasonable.”
Priesse is a member of the board of elections for Franklin County, which includes Columbus, and chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party.
“Preisse’s comment makes clear that his decision to vote against weekend hours is motivated by a fear of black voters. He also thinks that voting is about accommodation, but it’s not. It’s a fundamental right that’s clearly under threat in key swing states like Ohio,” said Aura Bogado, who writes about voting rights for Colorlines.com.
Weekend voting helped 93,000 Ohioans cast ballots in the final three days before the 2008 election, according to The Huffington Post.
Below is a statement from Colorlines.com’s Voting Rights reporter Brentin Mock:
“The comments made by the GOP chairman are not at all surprising and are in fact consistent with comments made by Pennsylvania GOP state Rep. Mike Turzai and Florida GOP state Sen. Mike Bennett who said he wants ‘people in Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who walks 200 miles across the desert,’ when he helped pass a similar law that limited early voting. It’s a clear strike at ‘souls to the polls’ campaign that encourage African-American voters to go vote after church before Election Day. But honestly rather than limit speech like this from Republican legislators, I’d argue that they deserve more of a forum to articulate their election reform intentions. We should encourage Republicans to speak more candidly and honestly about why they want to make changes to voting practices that only seem to impact voters of color. It took a lot of courage for Preisse to confess his true feelings about black voters and I hope that other Republican legislators will now be brave enough to do the same.”
About 535,000 votes were cast Early (in the 35 days prior to election day) and In-Person statewide in 2008, according to a study by Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates. Nearly half (47%) of Early In-Person votes were cast during NON-business hours (e.g. after-hours and weekends), many of which are no longer available to voters.