In 2008, we saw just how important weekend voting is to Black Americans. In Ohio, which had narrowly gone Republican in 2004, Black voters took advantage of extended hours and helped Obama win the state.1 By opening the polls on Saturdays and Sundays, this battleground state enabled Black and low-income Ohioans to vote in record numbers.
But now, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted wants to put an end to weekend voting. It’s clearly a partisan move to secure Ohio for Mitt Romney.
As Ohio’s top election official, Husted has the power to restore weekend hours statewide. He needs to know that the nation is watching. Please join us in calling on him to make sure that all Ohioans can exercise their basic right to vote this November. It only takes a moment:
Earlier this month, state election officials decided that if you lived in a Republican-leaning county in Ohio — mostly suburban and rural areas — you could stroll into your polling place to vote late into the evening or on weekends in the weeks leading up to Election Day. But if you lived in a county that encompassed a racially diverse city such as Cleveland, Cincinnati or Columbus, you had to make it to the polls between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.2
Husted stood by county Republican election officials who voted to put this disparity in place until a national outcry forced him to announce a new plan.3 As secretary of state, Husted had the power to expand evening and weekend early voting hours to people in urban counties, making access to the polls a priority everywhere. Instead he chose to eliminate weekend voting statewide. And now he’s even trying to fire Board of Elections officials who would open their county’s polling place doors on weekends.4
Ohio’s recent history around elections is key to understanding why early voting is so important. In 2004, Black voters and others in the state’s urban areas experienced faulty machines and lengthy voting lines.5 Many eligible voters gave up in frustration, returning to work or home without getting to cast their ballot. But starting in 2006, the state allowed people to vote in the weeks leading up to the election, including evenings and weekends.
Evening and weekend hours have been especially critical to Black voters who cast their ballots after work or after church in the weeks preceding elections.6 In the 2008 election, 56% of early voters in Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is located, were Black. African Americans of voting age make up only a quarter of the county’s population.7 Our communities take advantage of extended hours.
Husted’s efforts to limit early voting in Ohio is just one piece of a larger, coordinated effort to derail democracy. Across the country, right-wing legislators are erecting barriers for Black voters including discriminatory voter ID laws,8 failure to restore the vote to people with felony convictions,9and predatory voter purges.10
As Ohio’s secretary of state, Jon Husted is charged with ensuring that every Ohioan has equal access to the voting booth. Please join us in telling him to rise above party politics and protect Black voters and all Ohioans by extending early voting hours:
– Rashad, Dani, Matt, Arisha, Aimée and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
August 28th, 2012
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1. “Ohio Early Voting Cutbacks Disenfranchise Minority Voters,” The Nation, 08-08-12
2. “Ohio Limits Early Voting in Democratic Counties, Expands in Republican Counties,” ThinkProgress, 08-10-12
3. “Ohio Secretary of State Restricts Voting Hours in All Counties,” ThinkProgress, 08-16-12
4. “Husted suspends Democrats on election board,” Dayton Daily News, 08-17-12
5. “Several Factors Contributed to ‘Lost’ Voters in Ohio,” Washington Post, 12-15-04
6. “Equal voting processes for Ohio counties may still be unfair for voters,” WKSU, 08-16-12
7. “Black Pastors Group Criticizes Ohio For New Rules That Limit Early Voting,” The Huffington Post, 08-14-12
8. “Top PA GOP politician admits voter ID is a partisan move,” ColorOfChange.org blog, 06-24-12
9. “Few Felons Regain Right to Vote in Florida,” FCIR, 08-13-12
10. “Thousands petition Department of Justice to ‘protect the vote’ in Florida,” Florida Courier, 07-12-12