The Obama campaign has filed suit against Ohio over a law passed quietly that would eliminate early voting in the three days ahead of the election this year, at least for people most likely to vote for President Obama.
Ohio Republicans were busy at work last year trying to make sure less people vote in 2012 than 2008. When voters caught wind of their plan, a referendum was planned on House Bill 194, a draconian piece of legislation which would have made drastic changes to Ohio's voting system. After SB 5 was so resoundingly defeated at the polls, gathering signatures for the referendum was a pretty simple task and the referendum would have been on the November ballot. In the meantime, the "reforms" to voting would not take place until after the referendum.
Ah, but those tricky Republicans had a plan up their sleeve. While signatures were being gathered to put HB 194 on the ballot, another bill passed the legislature. This one was a "technical corrections bill" intended to reconcile the early voting dates for absent military and overseas voters with the voting dates in HB 194. There then began a series of legislative machinations that are so twisted it's hard to believe they weren't intentional. An "emergency bill was passed by the Ohio General Assembly -- HB 224 -- which set a conformed deadline for military and non-military early voters to be the Friday before the election.
As it is, after a careful examination, State Rep. Kathleen Clyde made a disturbing discovery. The Kent Democrat found that the Senate's "repeal" bill, Senate Bill 295, really amounts to a sneak attack. Instead of simply striking down House Bill 194, the repeal bill seeks to reinstate one of the most objectionable features -- imposing a deadline on in-person absentee voting starting the Friday before Election Day, cutting off a three-day window when interest reaches its peak.
This is a really big deal. Look at the numbers to see why. In 2004, before reforms were made including that in-person absentee voter measure, 7.6 percent of Ohio voters were absentee voters, representing 10.6 percent of the votes cast. In 2008, after the reforms, 20.7 percent of Ohio's registered voters cast ballots, representing 29.7 percent of the total votes cast.
Moreover, the effect is to keep a longer deadline in place for military and overseas voters while shortening it for in-state absentee voters. Guess which party benefits most from that?
I would be curious to know which ALEC members laid awake at night trying to figure out ways to disenfranchise Ohio voters. Hopefully the court will put a permanent injunction on any implementation of these voting restrictions for the November election. If not, we can count on Republicans to steal Ohio in November. Again.
After all, they're counting on their Voter ID laws to win elections for Romney, don't forget.