Union front We Are Ohio held a rally the morning of August 20 supporting two suspended Montgomery County Board of Elections officials who have fought an August 15 directive from Secretary of State Jon Husted. We Are Ohio used the protest outside a hearing on the officials’ suspensions to again smear Husted, a Republican, as a racist for including no weekends in uniform statewide early voting hours.
Addressing an estimated 100 protesters outside Husted’s office, Montgomery County Board of Elections President Mark Owens introduced his two suspended colleagues. Husted temporarily removed Dennis Lieberman and Thomas Ritchie – both Democrats – from their positions after they refused to adhere to the secretary of state’s early in-person voting schedule, which designates extended hours past 5:00 pm on eleven different days.
Red, white, and blue “GOTTA VOTE” signs were distributed through the crowd by President Obama’s reelection campaign.
In their brief remarks, Lieberman and Ritchie framed weekend voting – a component of Obama’s 2008 election strategy – as central to the survival of the republic. Lieberman justified their fight against Husted’s uniform statewide early voting hours by stating that he “was not put on the board of elections to be a puppet.”
Ritchie introduced African Methodist Episcopal Church elder Charles Holmes, who pushed We Are Ohio’s message even further. Following is a video of his remarks.
In front of the same mass-produced union signs used in We Are Ohio’s 2011 fight against public union reform, Holmes said, “In Ohio and all across the nation there is an effort to take away your vote with tricks like photo IDs and now by reducing the number of early voting hours. This is immoral! This is unconscionable! This is reprehensible!”
The crowd cheered and applauded for Holmes, seemingly oblivious to the fact that citizens able to attend a Monday morning protest are well-equipped to help family, coworkers, and neighbors get to the polls during the weeks of early in-person voting provided by Husted’s schedule.
Husted has argued for statewide consistency and against burdening every county with the expense of weekend voting hours. In addition to weeks of early in-person voting, every registered voter in Ohio will be mailed an absentee ballot application.
Protesters at the We Are Ohio event included an Obama campaign organizer as well as union representatives from United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Communications Workers of America (CWA), and the AFL-CIO. AFSCME Council 8 President John Lyall and Ohio Democratic Party chairman Chris Redfern were in attendance, as was Brian Rothenberg, the executive director of union-funded ProgressOhio.
Several photos from the event are available in a Flickr set from Media Trackers.
We Are Ohio’s stance that any early voting schedule which does not meet liberal demands amounts to “voter suppression” is consistent with Ohio Democratic Party messaging. “All Ohioans should be greatly concerned that our secretary of state is willing to force two public servants out of their jobs in order to push through his political agenda of voter suppression,” Redfern said on August 17.
Earlier in the month, Redfern complained that it was “patently political” to allow heavily Republican counties to schedule weekend voting while Husted blocked weekend voting in some heavily Democrat counties. As he had previously promised, Husted voted against weekend hours when asked to break a tie between county officials.
“Jim Crow has been resurrected in Ohio,” said Nina Turner, a Democrat state senator in Cleveland.
While liberal groups push for ever more extended early voting hours, President Obama’s reelection campaign has sued Husted to allow in-person voting the weekend before the election. Leftists allege Husted’s attempt to standardize Ohio’s voting schedule across all 88 counties unfairly favors military voters – who may vote the weekend before the November election due to federal law – while disenfranchising minority voters.
A 2011 bill to update Ohio election law and set uniform early voting hours was likewise described as racist by unions and the Ohio Democratic Party.