Monday, August 6, 2012


The State of Ohio, now controlled by a Republican governor unlike in 2008, is doing what it can to restrict the voting rights of the state's citizens. One such restriction is to cut back on early voting. Early voting is a highly successful method of increasing voter turnout, and no significant problems had occurred in operating this program. Which must be why the new powers that be in Ohio, perhaps the swingiest of swing states, and the one that both campaigns may be trying their hardest to win, must have decided that this program had to be restricted. The new law cuts off the right to vote early three days before election day, which means that voters who have difficulty getting to the polls on election day will no longer have the ability to vote over the weekend before the election, which had been a popular thing to do. Except for members of the military, who can still vote early, right up to election day. Could the motives of the Ohio legislators who voted for this change be any more transparent?

The Obama campaign sued to try to stop the new voting restrictions, in the course of which they are making the legal argument that it is unfair to continue to allow early voting for military service personnel while the voting rights of Ohioans at home are being cut back. As a result, over the weekend, the Romney campaign falsely accused the Obama campaign of trying to restrict the voting rights of members of the military, which of course is exactly the opposite of what the Obama campaign is trying to do. In response, Think Progress, which reported on this story over the weekend, cleverly responds that the Republican plan will result in denying the right to vote over the weekend before election day, to approximately 900,000 Ohio veterans, just because they happen to reside in Ohio.

But of course none of this has anything to do with voting rights of those in military service in particular. It's all based on the simple calculation that the more difficult it is to vote, the more likely the result is to favor Republicans. That's because people who need more help in voting--the elderly, the poor, the working class that can't so easily break away from their jobs--tend to skew a bit more Democratic. Everybody in politics knows this, and that is the reason for these laws. That is the only reason for these laws.

Look: when the Republicans controlled the state election apparatus in 2004, there were all kinds of problems, and Kerry lost this crucial state by a narrow margin. The Democrats took over the statehouse, and the Secretary of State's office in 2008, expanded the ability of people to vote, and Obama won by a comfortable margin. I was in Ohio poll-watching in 2008, because a call for lawyers had gone out across the country just to avoid a repeat of 2004, and it turned out to be unnecessary, because Democratic control over the electoral process led to a much smoother and fairer election. Now in 2012, after the Republicans took control in 2010, Ohio is once again a hugely important state, and the funny business is starting again. And the Romney campaign is telling blatant lies about what is going on, throwing the red herring of military voting rights into the mix just to confuse the real issue.

The real issue is whether we are going to make it harder or easier for people to vote. All you have to do is look at the positions of the two parties on every election issue that comes up, whether it is id cards, or early voting, or whatever, and you can see that the Republicans will consistently support whatever makes it more difficult for people to vote, while the Democrats will support whatever methods help expand the franchise. All you have to do is notice which party is out conducting massive voter registration campaigns, and which party is trying to implement new restrictions on people's ability to vote. It's as simple and obvious as that.

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