Republican Gov. John KASICH HAS signed into law three bills that change the procedures for voting in Ohio. The measures were rammed through the GOP- controlled General Assembly, with proponents arguing, among other things, that they are designed to combat voter fraud.
Not surprisingly, Democrats have been quick to respond, accusing the Republicans who control every statewide administrative office and six of the seven Supreme Court seats of attempting to restrict voting.
The arguments from both sides should ring familiar. They have been used in previous battles over voting in Ohio.
The GOP contends that unrestricted access to the polls is a recipe for disaster; the Democratic Party counters that voter suppression is at the heart of the Republican campaign. It notes that urban areas are hardest hit by the changes in voting procedures, with black voters, who mostly support Democratic candidates, being dissuaded from going to the polls.
The three new laws enacted by Republicans in the state Legislature and signed by the governor have fueled another battle that will end up in court.
The Ohio Democratic Party, along with Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, are supposed to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the laws. They contend the measures violate the federal Voting Rights Act. FitzGerald is the expected Democratic nominee for governor.
Given the long-standing back-and-forth, a court of law is the appropriate venue for not only airing the arguments, but for an impartial ruling.
IMPACT OF VOTING REFORMS
According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the effect of the Republican election reforms has been to eliminate Golden Week, the seven-day period during which voters were able to register and cast ballots at the same time; prohibit boards of election from mailing absentee ballot applications, leaving the duty in the hands of the secretary of state; and require more information on provisional ballots.
In addition, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted has issued a directive eliminating in-person voting on Sundays. Husted points out that he sought recommendations from the Ohio Association of Election Officials, a bipartisan organization.
But the chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, Tim Burke, counters that the elimination of Sunday voting ignores “the needs of the large urban counties,” according to the Plain Dealer.
As the battle between Republicans and Democrats is played out, we would hope that the issue of voter fraud takes center stage. Every state that has moved to make it more difficult for Americans to vote has used that argument.
And yet, there are no credible studies to support the claim that individuals not eligible to vote have been flooding polling places and casting ballots, thereby affecting the outcome of elections.
Nonetheless, Republicans continue to use the voter fraud canard. The time has come for them to put up their proof or drop their claim.
We have consistently argued that the world’s leading democracy, a beacon of hope for the masses living in closed societies, should have the highest voter participation rate, not one of the lowest.
Erecting barriers to voting is undemocratic. There already are enough safeguards to prevent the kind of wholesale voter fraud Republicans insist exists.