03 May 2014

Under the absurd guise of “fairness,” Ohio Secretary of State Husted announced statewide uniform times for early voting for the 2014 fall general election. Unlike in past elections, there will be no early voting on Sundays. The Republicans who dominate Ohio politics, like Jon Husted, are targeting black, poor, elderly and young voters for disenfranchisement. Just like “Driving While Black” (DWB) has become a well-known acronym, so it is joined by “Voting While Black” (VWB).


Husted is not a born-again fundamentalist acting on old-time “day of rest” principles in barring a Sabbath voting day. Rather, he’s prohibiting it because black preachers have urged their congregations to vote on Sundays after church services.


These well-known “Souls to the Polls” crusades should be applauded in a democratic society. Instead, Husted and his Republican Inane Clown Posse close down voting at the times most convenient for voters.


Another tactic they use is so blatantly ridiculous that it needs little rebuttal. They will open only one Voting Center in each county and they call it “equality.” How is it equal that a county like Vinton, with a population of 13,329, gets the same number of early voting centers as Franklin County with 1.196 million people?


Husted and his cohorts wish to create long lines and chaos at the polls. That’s the only way the Republican Party can win. They suppress black voters because they vote 95 percent or so Democratic. They suppress poor, elderly and young voters because they also vote disproportionately Democratic.


This is the new insidious Jim Crow. At least the old Jim Crow flaunted its brazen racism. The New Jim Crow hides behind the rhetoric of the civil rights movement with such phrases as “uniform times,” “fairness” and “equality.”


So the Republicans have also reduced early voting from 35 days to 29 and made it difficult for working people to vote by restricting the hours during the weekday to only 8am-4pm. Additionally, they made provisional ballots – those second-class, back-of-the-bus ballots that are handed out freely in inner-city minority precincts and rarely counted – even more difficult to count.


In the 2012 Ohio presidential election, 34,322 provisional ballots went uncounted – 28 percent of them because people were in the wrong precinct. Historically, if a voter was in the wrong precinct, you simply wouldn’t count the incredibly rare precinct vote normally one voting an area dry. Not even “Precinct Captains” who work for political parties are voted for at a precinct level. They are appointed by the party central committee ward representatives.


But it was a Republican, former Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell (while co-chairing the Bush-Cheney Re-election Committee) who decided to disenfranchise voters in the urban areas because they were at the wrong precinct. Rural areas are generally too small to require multiple precincts in one location. Hence, Blackwell – the first black elected statewide official – knew it was the most efficient way to target black urban voters. Right polling place, wrong precinct.


These actions by Husted and his Republican colleagues place Ohio along with ten other states in the forefront of those embracing the New Jim Crow tactics. Ten states: Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Virginia – are states that recently adopted stringent ID requirements for voting. Husted rejected the ID path but was still willing to be the white boy playing that funky race card – irrational laws making voting inconvenient and ballots easy to discard.


Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has joined in the New Jim Crow game by striking down a people’s initiative that would have made the right to vote part of the Ohio Constitution (see “DeWine hates democracy,” February 20, 2014 issue).


Voting While Black is the new way to profile minorities in the Buckeye State.