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Courts slow GOP attack on voting

Published: Mon, September 24, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

No one who knows U.S. District Court Judge Peter C. Economus (this writer has supported him since he first sought public office decades ago) would question his motives when he recently ruled against Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican. But because Economus, a Democrat, was appointed to the federal bench by former President Bill Clinton, also a Democrat, his ruling in an important voting-rights case may be dismissed as pure partisan politics. It isn’t.

The judge has never been a Democratic Party insider. Indeed, when he first ran for the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, he took on the party establishment led by the late chairman, Don L. Hanni Jr.

Nonetheless, Republicans will attempt to denigrate his finding against Ohio’s chief elections officer by couching it in partisan political terms.

That’s why another ruling against Husted in another case having to do with the Nov. 6 general election is so critical. It was issued by the Republican dominated Ohio Supreme Court and was an undeniable legal smack down of the secretary of state.

But before delving into the High Court’s decision, let’s review what Economus, who is on senior status after having retired from the federal bench in Youngstown, did.

Right to vote

He ruled that all Ohioans have a right to vote in person on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day, thus voiding a law passed by the Republican controlled General Assembly void. The GOP had changed the early-voting provision that had applied to all Ohioans to only permit active military members to vote in person on those three days.

The judge cited the 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore (the ruling gave Republican George W. Bush the presidency over Democrat Al Gore) in framing his decision. The Republican appointees on the Supreme Court delivered the presidency to Bush.

He ordered Husted to instruct the boards of elections to make preparations for early voting on the three days, but the secretary of state told them not to do anything because his lawyer, Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine, was filing an appeal with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Economus was not amused, and ordered Husted to appear before him to explain why his order had been ignored. A contrite elections chief reversed himself, thus avoding a dressing down in federal court.

Nonetheless, Republicans in state government aren’t giving up without a fight. An appeal has been filed.

But, the GOP cannot ignore the reality that Economus’ ruling isn’t the only one that slows the Republican plan — it is being pushed in other states as well — to make voting in the Nov. 6 general election difficult for a particular segment of the population — mostly individuals who would be supporting the Democratic ticket.

Another federal judge, Algenon L. Marbley, ruled against the state’s decision to toss out provisional ballots cast by qualified voters in a situation commonly referred to as “right church, wrong pew.” In locations where voters in multiple precincts cast ballots at one central location, elections officials will commonly refer to voters to the wrong line. Four years ago, Ohio rejected 14,000 provisional ballots because they were cast in the wrong precinct due to poll worker error.

Again, the Republicans are appealing Judge Marbley’s ruling.


But it’s the opinion rendered by the Republican dominated Supreme Court that must have caused Husted and his colleagues heartburn.

In ordering the Ohio Ballot Board, chaired by the secretary of state, to come up with new language for State Issue 2 that will appear on the general election ballot, the court said the summary that had been developed by the board contains “material omissions and factual inaccuracies,” according to the Plain Dealer.

State Issue 2 would change the way congressional and legislative districts in Ohio are created.

The ballot board that developed the language for Issue 2 is made up of three Republicans and two Democrats, who objected to the wording.

The board must now come up with language that meets the Supreme Court’s standard.

The ruling was a crushing blow for the Republicans because it exposed their venality in dealing with election-related issues.


1Alexinytown(246 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Well, first of all Issue 2 is going down. Sorry to bust that bubble. No I'm not.

On the issue of weekend voting, whatever did we do without it years ago when we had a single day to vote?

Oh, that's right, we were responsible enough to get to the polls. Or were we disenfranchising everyone back then too?

If that is the case, we should invalidate every election back to 1900.

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2300(573 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

It's because Alex isn't an honest person. He probably benefits disproportionately from the status quo, or he's mislead to believe that he's part of the ruling elite. That would the only reasoning behind supporting gerrymandering.

People today work longer hours than at any point since the end of WWII, are more mobile, and have more responsibilities than previously (how many people were going to school and working fulltime 40 years ago?).

The reason Conservatives are against the idea of making voting as painless as possible is because they know that if everyone voted they would have a hard time winning any elections, since GOP policies only benefit a small minority at the top (ironically a majority of those who benefit from these policies actually vote Democratic against their own economic self-interest, at least in the short-term).

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3chuck_carney(499 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

"He ruled that all Ohioans have a right to vote in person on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day, thus voiding a law passed by the Republican controlled General Assembly void."

I think Bertrum needed to add void a few more times to make the point.

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4JulietZavon(18 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Limiting access to the polls? What country are we in! Our men and women give their lives overseas so others can have freedom and democracy. John Husted dishonors their sacrifice. Shame on him for restricting voting and seeking to mislead voters with the ballot language for Issue 2! I’m disappointed in Husted’s disregard for fair elections. I’m voting YES on ISSUE 2. Issue 2 will create fair congressional districts in a balanced, open, public process. Ohio citizens have had enough of backroom politics. They deserve the kind of democracy at home that our men and women are fighting for overseas.

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5ndawket(10 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

For 40 years the League of Women Voters has sought a bi-partisan solution to the problem of gerrymandering, but the dominant party is never agreeable. They care more about their self-interest than the communities they are supposed to serve. Now, they are doing it again. Ohioans deserve better. Support Issue 2 to tell them we’re tired of their games at our expense. It doesn't solve every voting injustice, but at least gerrymandering is ended.

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6jeepers(127 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

That's right-more time for the democrats to screw with the legal votes. How does requiring proof of ID discriminate against anyone? Much less democrats? Illegal aliens-let them vote too. Duplicate votes-sure why not? Just so your man gets in no matter what. Hang some more chads,too. Bertram-you truly are an idiotic lemming that is writing for the right paper in the right town. Your myopic view is depressing.

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