By Brad Friedman on 8/9/2012, 8:45pm PT  

The stories are coming in faster and furiouser as we get closer to the November Presidential Election, and as Republican Secretaries of State around the country scramble to exercise and/or abuse their power to game the system in favor of their party any way they legally-ish can do so.

(If anybody finds Democratic Secretaries of State doing same, please feel free to let us know.)

So here are a few quick (and by no means complete) news updates on voter suppression techniques being implemented by GOP Secretaries of State over the past few days in Michigan, Iowa and Ohio, as this election, less than 100 days away, now begins to enter it's even uglier phase...


During Tuesday's primary election, at polling places across the state, voters were surprised and confused when they showed up to the polls and were asked to check a box confirming they were U.S. citizens before they were given a ballot. Some who refused to do so were, inappropriately, told they could not vote without doing so.

The GOP legislature, earlier this year, passed a law that would have enshrined such an affirmation requirement into the state election code. They also passed a disenfranchising polling place Photo ID restriction as well. But, to his credit (and it's difficult to give him credit for much of anything else), Republican Gov. Rick Snyder bucked --- and shocked --- his own party by vetoing the measures.

Republican Sec. Of State Ruth Johnson, however, didn't go out of her way to let counties know the citizenship affirmation had been vetoed. In fact, she did just the opposite, vowing to include the citizenship affirmation check box on ballot applications despite the veto of the legislation that would have enshrined it into law. The result, this week, was that some voters were required, including voters in Detroit, to affirm their citizenship (something which is already done, under penalty of perjury, when voters register in the first place) before being allowed to cast their vote.

Confusion reigned, much as Snyder had predicted when he vetoed the bill. "By midday," according to the Detroit Free Press, "the Secretary of State sent out a clarification to county and local clerks telling them not to enforce the citizenship declaration on the application."

"Clerks were told that if a voter refused to check the box they were to say to the voter: 'Under the Michigan Constitution and election laws you must be a citizen of the United States in order to vote.' And then the clerks were to hand the voter a ballot."

Johnson is one of the many new incredibly partisan Secretaries of State across the country on a rampage to make it harder to vote, under the guise of pretending that we have a massive polling place voter fraud problem in this country. We don't. Johnson doesn't care. Not if it might help her party this year somehow.

LATE BREAKING IRONY: Four GOP U.S. House staffers from Michigan are indicted late today for election fraud!


In an echo of Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott and his incredibly partisan Sec. of State Ken Detzner's disastrous recent attempt to purge "potential non-citizens" from Sunshine State voting rolls, Iowa's incredibly partisan Sec. of State Matt Schultz issued "emergency rules" at the end of July to help kick off his own "non-citizen" voter purge in the Hawkeye State.

That effort was met by a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on Wednesday, charging that Schultz' rules were issued improperly in an abuse of his office.

According to AP, the new rules call for suspected non-citizens to be identified through an unknown process created by Schultz without oversight or explanation which, his office says, would be "contrary to the public interest."

If, through this magical, unoverseeable process, created with no public input, voters are believed to be ineligible to vote as non-citizens, "Schultz's office will send notice telling them they may be illegally registered, a class D felony, and should cancel their registrations immediately. They would be given 14 days to dispute the notice; if they fail to do so, Schultz's office would take steps to remove them from the list."

When Scott and Detzner tried the same process, as a BRAD BLOG investigation was able to discover, just 9 non-citizens were confirmed on the rolls, out of 11.2 million registered, from a similar list the pair had sent to county Supervisors of Elections. None of the 9 had cast a vote in Florida. Meanwhile, their purge did succeed in threatening the right to vote of folks like natural-born U.S. citizens like Bill Internicola, the 91-year old, Brooklyn-born, World War II veteran and Bronze Star recipient who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and Archibald Bowyer, another 91-year old WWII vet who has been a citizen since the age of 2. Bowyer received his letter, notifying he'd be purged unless he was able to prove his citizenship within 30 days (twice as long as that set for Iowa voters!), just as his wife had recently died.

Another "emergency rule" issued by the Iowa's Secretary Schultz, according to the ACLU, removes the requirement of signing a sworn statement when making an allegation of voter fraud. It should be a fun election this year in Iowa!

Schultz has long called for polling place Photo ID restrictions in Iowa, despite the dearth of evidence that anybody has ever committed voter fraud by in-person polling place impersonation --- the only type of voter fraud that can possibly be deterred by such measures --- in the state. Last year he sponsored a bill to require polling place Photo ID, but, thankfully, the measure was blocked by Democrats in the state Senate.

Despite all of that, when the Iowa GOP ran their "First in the Nation" Presidential Caucuses in January, when they were able to create any rules they wanted for the proceedings, they chose not to require their own voters to present a photo ID before participating in the caucuses. Go figure.


We already covered, in some detail, the Romney campaign's phony claims about the voting rights law suit filed by the Obama Campaign and DNC in Ohio to expand the right for all eligible voters in the state to cast an early vote in the three days before this November's election. That right was taken away by Ohio's Republican legislature and Governor this year for all but active duty military voters, even though it had been a tremendous success for voters in the Buckeye State ever since it was implemented following the disastrous 2004 Presidential Election when voters, in predominantly Democratic districts only, were forced to wait some 2 to 12 hours before casting their vote on Election Day.

But another aspect of this issue has come up of late, as Ari Berman flagged for us yesterday. County Boards of Elections around the state, are voting to open Early Voting locations after business hours and on weekends in Republican counties only, while limiting hours of operation from 8am to 5pm on weekdays only in Democratic-leaning counties.

Berman details very well how this will "disproportionately disenfranchise African-American voters in Ohio's most populous counties," among other problems, though he doesn't go into the details of Ohio's byzantine election procedures that have lead to this coming about. Cincinatti Enquirer's Barry Horstman details it pretty well.

What's happening is this: In Ohio, County Boards of Elections are "bi-partisan", in that they are split, 50/50 Republican and Democratic in each of the state's 88 counties (supposedly, though we had a great deal of evidence after 2004 showing that some of the "Democrats" on those boards had never voted in a Democratic primary in their lives, until just prior to being appointed to the Board of Elections by then criminally partisan Sec. of State and co-chair of Bush/Cheney '04 Inc., J. Kenneth Blackwell.)

When the boards split a vote on any particular issue --- such as how long to keep Early Voting locations open --- the Sec. of State is called in to break the tie. So where Boards of Elections are holding votes in Republican areas, both the R and D members of the Boards are voting in favor of expanded Early Voting hours.

In Democratic-leaning counties, however, Republicans on the Boards are voting against expanded Early Voting hours, while Democrats are voting for it (just as they are consistently doing in Republican counties as well.) That is resulting in tie votes in some of the state's largest, and most Democratic-leaning counties.

Coming in to break the tie is Republican Sec. of State Jon Husted, and he has been siding, in each case when called, with the Republicans in favor of not expanding Early Voting hours.

The result: Expanded Early Voting hours in Republican areas of Ohio this year, no expanded Early Voting hours in Democratic areas. [Update: See map of affected counties here.]

We have endeavored, since Husted's 2010 election, to given him every benefit of the doubt. He has, in fact, bucked his party on several occasions, most notably when he took a very strong stand against a polling place Photo ID initiative that his fellow Republicans in the legislature had tried to pass. It wasn't the only time we'd highlighted him doing the right thing for voters. We're even willing to give him tentative kudos (at least until we learn more about how the system works, or doesn't) for an initiative announced this morning to allow voters to modify their addresses online on their voter registrations.

In the case of his votes against expanded Early Voting hours in Democratic counties, however, he has some serious 'splaining to do.

In Horstman's piece, a letter from the Secretary to the Franklin County Board of Elections is quoted, in which Husted explains his decision to vote against expanding Early Voting hours. "I cannot create unequal access from one county board to another," he claims, "and I must also keep in mind the resources available to each county."

If Husted is truly concerned about "unequal access" for voters in differing counties, a legitimate concern, he would vote in favor of expanded hours when called upon, since that is what is already happening in Republican leaning counties in the Buckeye State. Moreover, while the Secretary of State in Ohio doesn't have the statutory power to order that Early Voting polls stay open later on some weekdays and for some weekend voting, he can issue a directive, strongly encouraging all Boards in the state to do so.

He hasn't. And he has helped to make access more unequal, rather than less, in the bargain. We've avoided describing Husted, so far, as "incredibly partisan", as we're more than comfortable describing Michigan's Secretary Johnson and Iowa's Secretary Schultz (not to mention Florida's Secretary Detzner), but Husted is making it very difficult, at this point, to see his decisions in these cases as anything but partisan, and an extreme disservice to the voters of Ohio who he is supposed to be serving.

Top image courtesy Shutterstock/Peeradach Rattanakoses

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