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Today In Republican Disenfranchisement Initiatives

[ 121 ] August 15, 2012 |

First, in Ohio the Republicans couldn’t be more straightforward about wanting to suppress Democratic voting, without even a “vote fraud” pretext:

If you live in Butler or Warren counties in the Republican-leaning suburbs of Cincinnati, you can vote for president beginning in October by going to a polling place in the evening or on weekends. Republican officials in those counties want to make it convenient for their residents to vote early and avoid long lines on Election Day.

But, if you live in Cincinnati, you’re out of luck. Republicans on the county election board are planning to end early voting in the city promptly at 5 p.m., and ban it completely on weekends, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. The convenience, in other words, will not be extended to the city’s working people.

The sleazy politics behind the disparity is obvious. Hamilton County, which contains Cincinnati, is largely Democratic and voted solidly for Barack Obama in 2008. So did the other urban areas of Cleveland, Columbus and Akron, where Republicans, with the assistance of the Ohio secretary of state, Jon Husted, have already eliminated the extended hours for early voting.

County election boards in Ohio, a closely contested swing state, are evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. In counties likely to vote for President Obama, Republicans have voted against the extended hours, and Mr. Husted has broken the tie in their favor. (He said the counties couldn’t afford the long hours.) In counties likely to vote for Mitt Romney, Republicans have not objected to the extended hours.

Ah, federalism and localism — when it comes to voting, their virtues are even less evident than usual. If Bush v. Gore was constitutional law this would be illegal.

Speaking of which, a state judge has permitted the vote suppression scheme in Pennsylvania to go forward.


Comments (121)

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  1. Sherm says:

    It’s truly pathetic that we have reached the point where the letter next the judge’s name necessarily determines his or her interpretation of election law.

  2. James E. Powell says:

    It’s been years since I read any cases, but I don’t understand, with or without Bush v. Gore, how does this not violate equal protection?

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      I dunno….it seems to me that the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities.

      • James E. Powell says:

        There is nothing complex about the days and hours that government offices are open.

        • Hogan says:

          I think IB was doing some well deserved Bush v. Gore mockery there.

          • Boudleaux says:

            Yes, sometimes it becomes so complex that one has to deliver a ruling along with a statement that one’s rationale applies only to this singular, amazingly complex case, lest one unwittingly subject Republicans and Democrats to the same standards nationwide.

            • Hey, I don’t make the rules. Oh wait, I do! Sweet! Now fuck off.

              • Malaclypse says:

                The real Scalia would have claimed that the Founders always intended for Boudleaux to fuck off, but didn’t make it sufficiently clear enough that lesser intellects would understand.

                • Holden Pattern says:

                  I think you’re mistaken. The real real Scalia would claim that the plain text of the Constitution, properly understood according to the definitions available to the founders, requires that Boudleaux fuck off, as any idiot could see if they weren’t blinded by their leftist ideology, and if some other outcome is desired, the Constitution must be amended.

  3. Glenn says:

    Do I understand the facts correctly, that the Dems in Republican-leaning counties are actually voting for the extended hours? In other words, the Dems are taking the high road, while the Republicans press for their own self-interested political advantage? Hm, where I have heard that one before?

    • Hogan says:

      So it would appear. Every county election board in Ohio has two Democrats and two Republicans.

    • NonyNony says:

      Of course they are. First of all keeping the polling places open is always better for Democrats even in counties that are Republican leaning. Democratic voters tend to work for a living, and giving them longer hours to get to the polls is always good, even if it means also giving Republican voters longer hours to get to the polls too.

      On top of that – it would hurt the state party overall to have some counties where the Dems were fighting to restrict voting access. It makes it harder for them to argue that voting rights should be extended everywhere.

      This is one of those areas where the Dems and Republicans are not completely symmetric and where you can’t just throw your opponent’s own tactics back in their faces.

      • Glenn says:

        Well, your first point is a good one, and I’m embarrassed I didn’t think about it a little more.

        As for the second one, though — I guess my point was it doesn’t ever seem to me that Republicans give a damn about whether their arguments are consistent or they are called hypocrites, or what have you. They just do what it takes to win. And while I often waffle on whether I want to see the Dems adopt that same attitude, it’s definitely the case that when only one side is concerned about integrity, that’s the side that’s gonna lose.

        • NonyNony says:

          No it isn’t really about integrity or hypocrisy here. I’m actually making a tactical argument in that second point. If you have some counties where the Dems are doing what the Republicans are doing in the urban areas, it would seem like it would make it harder to argue that this was an equal protection issue and not a local control issue. Husted could go ahead and vote to shut down those counties (and hurt the Democratic voters there) and be able to stand in front of the court and point to places where the Democrats were the key votes in shutting it down, so it must be about costs and not about throwing up roadblocks like the start party contends.

          And remember – we have a Republican dominated Supreme Court, and IIRC a lot of our Federal benches are Bush I and Bush II appointees. So giving them anything to latch onto that makes this excusable is just asking for trouble from the tactical side.

          So like I said – this is one of those cases where you really can’t fight fire with fire.

      • UserGoogol says:

        Well, most people work for a living. If the Republican Party was limited to the Paris Hiltons of the world, they’d have a rather niche appeal. But pedantry aside, the general tendency is generally that Republican-leaning demographics tend to have an easier time voting than Democratic-leaning demographics, so you’re still basically right.

        • UserGoogol says:

          Although to nitpick my own point, now that I think of it, actually a rather large minority don’t work for a living, if by don’t work you specifically mean aren’t officially participating in the labor force at a particular point in time. Some of those demographics skew Democratic (students, the unemployed, probably stay at home parents) and others skew Republican (retirees) but in general, I do think the Democratic ones tend to have a harder time getting to the voting booth.

          • Boudleaux says:

            “Niche” as an adjective? I shall repair now to Webster, but suspicion is that I like that very much.

          • Bill Murray says:

            Also, some jobs (like mine) are very easy to get time to go do something (vote, get my oil changed etc.) and some aren’t. I have no idea what the Repubixan/Democratic skew is on these jobs.

            • mark f says:

              And even if you can leave during the day, that doesn’t help you for voting purposes if your commute is an hour. And how many bosses are going to give a fuck when “I can’t stay – I haven’t voted yet” is your reason for saying no to a Sorry About This But A Very Big Thing Just Came Up?

        • timb says:

          But pedantry aside

          This should a rotating motto at the top of the blog

    • mark f says:

      More proof that Democrats’ only principle is winning, acheived via underhanded Alinskyite tactics.

  4. Joe says:

    Ah, federalism and localism — when it comes to voting, their virtues are even less evident than usual.

    There are too many nuances nation-wide to have a one size fits all policy set in D.C. so it amounts to a question of degree and line drawing.

    This sort of thing is the equal protection, violation of the right to vote, sort of thing that warrants national rules. An evenly applied set of rules that determines the exact hours, the specific procedures for each area etc. can have some play in the joints.

    The fact NY and CA might set their primary elections for House races on different days, e.g., doesn’t seem to be a problem for me. This is “federalism” and “localism” in action in “voting.”

    • liberal says:

      There are too many nuances nation-wide to have a one size fits all policy set in D.C. so it amounts to a question of degree and line drawing.

      Not true for most policy arenas.

    • djw says:

      There are too many nuances nation-wide to have a one size fits all policy set in D.C.

      Without a pretty careful spelling out of the work done by the word “nuances” here, I’m inclined to write this off as a bit of reflexive American exceptionalism. Plenty of big, diverse countries have federally administered elections.

      • Joe says:

        Without a “pretty careful spelling out” of what “federally administered” means, I inclined to write this off as overly vague.

        I did not say there could be no ‘federally administered’ policy. We already have federal rules in various areas. I said each detail, giving an example of a primary date for House races, need not and in some cases ideally would not, be provided.

        I don’t know the rules of “plenty” of nations though do know that they are different from the U.S. in various ways, including “plenty” not having our size population

        • Population matters because…you have to count more?

          • Joe says:

            Population matters when it is diverse and involves a lot more people with various diverse needs requiring various diverse means to address their specific needs in situation after situation.

            • Hogan says:

              And county governments have consistently proven their superior ability to address those situations. As we are seeing in Ohio.

              • Joe says:

                Point? Discretion being open would allow us to look at each situation and determine how to set the best rules, rules set in various cases by various levels of government.

                • Hogan says:

                  Or it would allow “us” to fiddle the rules so that Democrats don’t get to vote. It’s all good.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  Point? Discretion being open would allow us to look at each situation and determine how to set the best rules, rules set in various cases by various levels of government.

                  This is just pure question-begging. Is there any evidence whatsoever that federalism actually produces these benefits? How did allowing every Florida country to make up its own rules work out in 2000?

                • Steve LaBonne says:

                  Actually, I’d be 110% in favor of abolishing the states the way the French revolutionaries abolished the provinces. Madison knew state governments were crap, in his time as they still are in ours, but was politically unable to go any farther toward limiting their power than he did. Unfortunately.

                  Meanwhile, I’m hopeful that the Obama campaign will succeed in making Mitt cry like a baby on national TV so that the election won’t be close enough for electoral shenanigans to matter.

            • Malaclypse says:

              You need to be more proactive in your diversity management. Also, leverage the synergies.

            • liberal says:

              Population matters when it is diverse and involves a lot more people with various diverse needs requiring various diverse means to address their specific needs in situation after situation.

              There’s much less diversity of need than you’re insinuating, and perhaps more importantly, there’s no evidence that that diversity profoundly depends on geography.

              Yes, there’s urban and rural, for example, but there’s no reason to think that urban in state X has more in common with rural in state X than urban in state Y.

        • djw says:

          We could easily have federal law and a federal commission governing the stuff that really matters (hours, access, technology, density of sites, etc) and allow states some latitude in setting primary dates.

          But let’s say we couldn’t, for some reason. What would be the loss to democracy if we had a national primary day?

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Can you explain how the decentralized American voting system works better than the Canadian one, which somehow manages to administer a large, sprawling country with uniform rules? Be specific!

  5. SP says:

    Game this out for me- What if Romney wins, by the margin of EVs supplied by Penn., which is itself close enough that under any reasonable interpretation the ID law swung the outcome. The law is subsequently found to be unconstitutional (since all the judge did was refuse an injunction, not rule on the merits.) You now have an election clearly and explicitly stolen through an unconstitutional law (“Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”)
    So what happens? Nothing, because as usual Dems are worried about looking forward, not back? If the parties were reversed I could honestly imagine an armed Republican insurrection.

    • Davis X. Machina says:

      Nothing, because Anthony Kennedy knows that the only thing between us and tanks-in-the-streets is his his keen and penetrating legal mind.

      Cf. 2000.

      • Joe says:

        The blame goes beyond Kennedy.

        Breyer in his book praised the ability of the country to move past Bush v. Gore, even though many strongly disagreed with it, and Gore was patted on the back for being so principled when he submitted to its ruling as if what the USSC said is all that mattered.

        He even asked senators not to join with House members to allow a symbolic challenge in the House. Time to move on. Oh, Justice Stevens wrote the opinion that helped the state judge accept the law here, the Crawford ruling. There is a broad problem here, not just Kennedy.

        • timb says:

          Stevens’s refusal to allow a facial challenge in Crawford just means liberals have to find a good test case to demonstrate actual harm. Why we have been unable to do this is beyond me

          • David M. Nieporent says:

            Well, I can think of one reason why one might not be able to find any evidence for the existence of unicorns. But since that reason goes against your ideological perspective and political interest, I doubt it will occur to you.

    • Davis X. Machina says:

      Let’s say your local judge refuses to issue a stay, you run the election under the new law, then, after the election, some higher court strikes the new law down as unconstitutional , but at the same time, say ‘Hey, guess what? There aren’t any remedies.. a do-over would be expensive, and throw the national results into doubt.’

      Not only are there no fingerprints on the corpse, there’s no corpse….

      It’s the perfect crime.

  6. somethingblue says:

    If poors were entitled to vote on weekends, wouldn’t that be mentioned somewhere in Leviticus?

  7. Sev says:

    Didn’t Comrade Stalin say it isn’t who votes, but who counts the votes? We need to task the Extraordinary Commission for Hacking (Anonymous) with the Diebold problem.

    • Davis X. Machina says:

      Diebold ain’t the problem. Fascination with Diebold is at this point counter-productive.

      The problem is humans, in state houses and court rooms. Diebold didn’t tip Ohio in 2004. Diebold didn’t disappear into the night in a limousine on 12 December 2000…

      • Sev says:

        Right, though the machines, theirs as well as others, are by all accounts rather insecure. My comment was mostly in the vein of “humor as an antidote to despair…”

    • Sev says:

      Though it may be General Kolchak has beaten us to it.

  8. Remember when Republicans used to brag about the electoral map?

    Remember when they used to write gloating pieces in National Review about how the fastest-growing areas of the country were red states?

    Remember when they used to explain how in touch they were with the values of the American people?

    That was seven years ago. Now, they’re scrambling around in panic mode to try to make sure the electorate is as unrepresentative as possible, because it’s their only chance of winning.

    As disgusting and dangerous as these actions are, make no mistake: these are the actions of a desperate party watching itself go down the tubes.

  9. Jeff says:

    I can think of at least one thing to help with the problem… everyone gets election day off. It should be a national holiday.

    • Sherm says:

      How about election “day” weekend. Voting starts Saturday morning and ends Sunday night.

    • Ramon A. Clef says:

      The problem is that “national holiday” doesn’t mean “everyone gets the day off.” For example, a company in my hometown has MLK’s birthday as a paid holiday – but the call center has to stay open. What happens is that all the executives and managers are off, but the peons work and get the “option” to take another day as their paid holiday and are then strongly discouraged from exercising the option.

      I can’t imagine that having election day be a national holiday would be any different.

      • John says:

        They wouldn’t be any worse off than under the current system, and a national holiday would at least make it easier for many people to vote. (Weekends have the same problem, as many people work on weekends).

      • Sherm says:

        Exactly right. How many people in the service sector are stuck working for next to nothing on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day, etc..? Election Day would be no different.

        • Joshua says:

          Well, even most service sector places are closed on Thanksgiving or Christmas.

          But you’re right. I myself work on MLK Jr. Day due to workload, but I actually do get to choose another day off with no caveats.

          Early voting is a great idea. We should have Election Week, actually. It starts Friday night and goes through Friday night. Pretty much everyone who wants to can find some time to vote in an entire week.

          • Malaclypse says:

            Well, even most service sector places are closed on Thanksgiving or Christmas.

            Millions of movie theaters beg to disagree.

            • Just Dropping By says:

              I wasn’t aware that movie theaters employed even 1% of the US work force, let alone a majority.

              • Malaclypse says:

                So if it doesn’t disenfranchise a majority, it doesn’t matter?

                Also: movie theaters, hospitals, grocery stores, gas stations, convenience stores, drugstores, police stations, firehouses – all open most holidays.

                Not saying the holiday idea is bad, just saying it does not help everybody. And most of the people not helped are Democrats.

                • David Hunt says:

                  Yeah, what helps is early voting with extended hours after 5 PM and on weekends. That way, the poorer working stiffs who can’t afford to take time off to vote can get to the polls. Unfortunately, a lot of those poorer working stiffs tend to vote Democratic, at least in urban areas like, Cleveland and Akron to name a few cities at random…

                • Joshua says:

                  Note I said “most.” Stores are closed. Malls are closed. Fast food places are closed. I once drove from NJ to VA on Christmas day, practically nothing was open. We were hungry the whole way. It’s fine.

                  Again, “most.” Not all.

          • Sherm says:

            Many grocery stores are open. As our many other retailers. I had a conversation with a cashier at a large grocery store in upstate New York two Thanksgivings ago which I started by asking her what time she’d be getting off because I was disgusted that the woman had to work. When she told me that she had to work all day, I commented “well, at least you’re getting time and a half.” Her answer, “Nope, we’re not union.”

            • John Protevi says:

              “we’re not union.” It’s the little details that count, and this has the ring of truth to it. Someone like Tom Friedman, for instance, would have his imaginary cab driver say “we’re not in a union,” which, while grammatical, is not really how folks talk.

              • Malaclypse says:

                McArdle would have her imaginary bagger say “We used to be in a union, but we like the flexibility that a complete lack of representation affords. We’re competitive now that we get fewer benefits!”

      • Nobody’s proposing eliminating absentee voting, just moving election day a bit.

    • JP Stormcrow says:

      In fact I think the current setup of election hours in many (most?) states could reasonably be construed as a poll tax.

  10. Funkhauser says:

    Hamilton County, which contains Cincinnati, is largely Democratic and voted solidly for Barack Obama in 2008.

    I don’t contest the point that Ohio’s county-level disparities are appalling, but this paragraph stuck in my craw. Hamilton County has Mean Jean Schmidt (R) and Steve Chabot (R) as Congresscritters. The city of Cincinnati is Democratic; the suburbs are anything but.

    • Hogan says:

      You can’t gerrymander in presidential elections. House elections are another matter.

      • rea says:

        You can’t gerrymander in presidential elections

        You actually can. Maine and Nebraska award their electoral votes by congressional district.

        • Bill Murray says:

          some of their electoral votes. The ones from Senators are statewide.

          and all single congress person states technically award their house electoral vote by district, but is not gerrymandered

    • Ohio Mom says:

      Once upon a time, all of the City of Cincinnati was in the same Congressional district, and yes, it was very Blue and sent Democrats to Congress.

      Then Republicans in Columbus split the city more or less down the middle (sorry I can’t remember exactly when). The western side of town added on to a swath of rural, Republican areas, which is the district that Chabot represents, and the eastern side added on to the rural, Republican areas that snake along the river, which is the district the Schmidt represents. She’s not running again but the Democrats haven’t mounted a real campaign so I’ll continue to be represented by a Republican.

      Also, to be absolutely fair, there are a few suburbs that are Blueish, but yeah, not too many.

    • djw says:

      Obama won Hamilton County, but his vote share in Hamilton county was virtually identical to his vote share in Ohio overall in 2008.

    • Kathleen says:

      Jean Schmidt’s 2nd district is mix of Hamilton and Warren (which is VERY right wing). I don’t know the percentages. Two out of the three Hamilton County Commissioners were Democrats very recently, until David Pepper left to run for state office.

  11. angry bitter drunk says:

    Not to worry. I’m ACORN volunteers are hard at work keeping people in their districts up-to-date about what they need to do to vote this year.

    Oh… wait. Oops.

  12. mark f says:

    Shorter Daniel “Baby Dough” Foster, NRO:

    Do Voter ID Laws ‘Disenfranchise’ People?

    Did you know that some people don’t even WANT to vote?!?! I say let them stay home, because Australia is disgusting. In conclusion, I am fine with some barriers to voting.

  13. Jim says:

    I am freakin furious. Someone tell us what we can do. How do we fix this now rather than being magnanimous later? Is it just GOTV efforts?

  14. JP Stormcrow says:

    I liked this from the Pa. judge’s opinion

    The Commonwealth’s asserted interest in protecting public confidence* in elections is a relevant and legitimate state interest sufficiently weighty to justify the burden.

    contrasted with his point that absentee voting was available as a remedy. You know, the one mode of voting that has seen instances of significant fraud in the US in the last few decades.

    *Not to mention that as a member of the Pa. public my confidence in elections after this has been deeply eroded.

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