Given all of the focus on Ohio this past Tuesday, and then the results, I felt like my letter this week just had to go to one particular Buckeye.
Dear Ohio Secretary of State Husted,
It’s me, Melissa. May I call you Jon?
How are you feeling today? Still a little sore, I’d imagine. Getting beaten so forcefully with all that backlash had to sting a bit. Probably gonna leave a mark. After all, you spent the better part of this year throwing the full force of your power as secretary of state into restricting the right of some Ohioans to vote. And on Tuesday, it boomeranged back upside your head something fierce.
After Ohio governor John Kasich and state Republican legislatures tried to restrict early voting the weekend before the election, President Obama’s campaign sued to restore early voting for all Ohioans. When a district judge agreed with the Obama campaign, you gave us the first indication of just how far you’d go to stop people from voting.
Not only did you appeal that decision, you also ordered county election boards to “defy” the judge’s order and “not” restore the early hours. Fortunately that judge called your bluff and ordered you into court to explain yourself.
You backed down rather than go before the judge, maybe because you thought you’d have better luck with the appeals court. Nope. They too, agreed that Ohioans should be allowed to vote the weekend before Election Day.
So what you’d do? You appealed again. This time to the Supreme Court, which promptly shut you down with a one-sentence statement from Justice Elena Kagan.
But Jon, I’ll give you this—you are nothing if not persistent. Because denied of all your attempts to limit the days, you limited the hours, and shortened the time available to vote last weekend compared to the same weekend in 2008.
You’ve been a busy guy, Jon. Between all that time spent trying to block voting on the weekend before Election Day, you somehow managed to eliminate early voting on all other weekends where it had previously been allowed and fire two Democratic election board members who tried to permit it.
And with only four days to go until Election Day, you attempted to twist the knife one last time. Last Friday, you issued a directive—in opposition to Ohio election statues—to put the burden on voters for mistakes written on provisional ballot forms—all but ensuring that some of them would get thrown out.
Once again, the courts will not be fooled by your shenanigans. In a hearing disputing your directive on Wednesday, a federal judge said that “…it was filed on a Friday night at 7 p.m. The first thought that came to mind was democracy dies in the dark. So, when you do things like that that seeks to avoid transparency, it appears, then that gives me great pause but even greater concern.”
The voters’ response to your tactics? Not only did the African-American vote not get suppressed—it turned out in historic numbers. In Ohio, African-Americans comprised 15% of the electorate, that’s up from 11% in 2008, and nearly 200,000 more votes.
Latino voters also turned out in larger numbers, and made an even stronger showing for President Obama than in 2008. That’s all despite long lines that wrapped around blocks and hours long waits in frigid temperatures to vote. Because you see, Jon, those voters you tried to suppress have a long memory. They remember when people like them faced literacy tests and poll taxes and arrests and beatings and lynchings and burnings and shootings—all in pursuit of the right to vote. So they would not be deterred by a lack of patience or uncomfortable climate. And they certainly would not be deterred by you.
And Jon, there’s something else you should know about the memory of those voters. In 2014, when you’re up for re-election? They are also going to remember what you tried to do.