When it comes to imposing new restrictions on voting rights, Ohio Republicans haven’t exactly been subtle. In February, GOP policymakers in the state ended the so-called “Golden Week,” when Ohioans can register and vote on the same day, and at the same time, they also made it harder for voters to receive absentee ballots.
Soon after, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) curtailed early-voting opportunities and announced Sunday voting would be eliminated entirely statewide.
More recently, Ohio Republicans moved towards penalizing the state’s largest county for making it easier for voters to participate in elections through absentee ballots. Zack Roth reports today, however, that on this front, state GOP policymakers appear to have backed off.
A spokesman for House Republicans said Tuesday afternoon that the GOP would drop a measure that would have cut funding by 10% for any county that doesn’t follow state law regarding absentee ballots. The proposal, inserted Monday into a larger budget bill, was a direct shot at the state’s largest county, Cuyahoga, which has asserted the right to mail absentee ballots to all registered voters – in defiance of a recently passed state law barring counties from doing so.Hours later, the Cuyahoga council voted to assert its “home rule” power, giving it the authority to send absentee ballots to all registered voters in the county.
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, a Democrat running against Gov. John Kasich (R) this year, told Roth that Ohio Republicans had defended the policy, but stopped “after we had our press conference in front of federal court this morning.”
And what a press conference it was.
Simmering frustrations among Ohio Democrats over new voting restrictions appear to be bubbling over, and FitzGerald’s message, among others, is increasingly forceful.
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald (D-Ohio), who is running to unseat Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), continued his battle against voting restrictions with a Tuesday announcement that he is asking the federal government to investigate efforts by state lawmakers to limit voting this election cycle. […]“As a former FBI agent, this is not a decision that I make lightly, but a thorough investigation is clearly warranted to examine the recent actions that would make it harder for working men and women to vote in 2014,” FitzGerald said in the release. “I am especially disappointed that, unless they get their way, some politicians in Columbus are willing to hold hostage taxpayer funds that help ensure public safety here in Cuyahoga County. It is disturbing that anyone in government would use these funds as a political bargaining chip to get their way.”
For now, it appears the issue of punishing the county for distributing absentee ballots has been resolved, but calls for a federal investigation relate to voting restrictions that have already been imposed.
There is not yet any indication that the Justice Department is eyeing Ohio for an investigation, but given Attorney General Eric Holder’s efforts to protect voting rights, it’s a story worth watching.