Looking past the one-month anniversary of Ohio’s March 15 primary, several angles about the possibility of voter suppression are being explored in the Buckeye State.
David Pepper, president of Ohio’s Democratic Party, claims that Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State, Jon Husted, engaged in activity tantamount to “a de facto literacy test — they are unnecessary hurdles for voters with visual impairments or low literacy skills and they are unlawful.”
“Republicans haven’t wasted any time taking advantage of this window of opportunity to make it harder to vote for students, women, seniors, people with disabilities and communities of color,” said Pepper in a Huffington Post editorial on the 50-year-old Voting Rights Act — which has been impeded because of recent rulings from the Roberts’ Supreme Court.
Pepper is specifically referencing Husted’s decision to deny 17-year-olds the ability to vote in the primary if they would be 18 by the time of the general election, as well as minor clerical issues — like a single digit off a Social Security number or writing in cursive — resulting in Ohio voters having their ballots tossed.
“There should be real vigilance on the part of public officials to protect every voter and every vote. Instead, Secretary Husted has been repeatedly slapped down by federal judges for standing in the way of voters,” said David Niven, associate professor of political science and a former speechwriter for former Gov. Ted Strickland.
“Why would Husted have a personal vendetta against letting 17-year-olds vote because presumably 17-year-olds would vote for the Democratic primary and that would not have impacted Husted’s supported candidate?” said Morgan Miller, a second-year accounting student and member of UC’s College Republicans. “Republican John Kasich, Republican State Senator Frank LaRose said he would be open to editing that provision.”
Niven said Husted is facing increasingly worse lawsuits — ones Husted keeps losing.
“The newest lawsuit he's facing involves Ohioans who have been purged from the voting rolls — erased as if they had never registered in the first place. He wouldn't face all these lawsuits, and he certainly wouldn't lose them all, if he defined his job as helping people vote,” said Niven.
While Husted’s alleged suppression will continue to play out in the courts, another aspect of Ohio’s primary is who voted — the total number of votes stayed the same from 2008 to 2016 but voting fluctuated based on party leanings.
Around 3.2 million Ohioans voted in both 2008 and in 2016, but it was GOP voters that showed up strongest last March.
Republican votes shot up 61 percent in 2016, while Democratic votes plummeted 47 percent compared to the 2008 — another primary with no incumbent running from either party.
“There was a stronger republican presence in Ohio because of the excitement of having an Ohioan on the ballot,” said Miller about Gov. John Kasich, who sits a distant third in the delegate count to business tycoon Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Miller said pressure remains on Kasich to stay in the race because GOP rules would give his delegates to Trump — a scenario Miller said is one Ohio Republicans want to avoid.
“This Republican race is like politics if it were scripted by Stephen King - unforgettable events, unpredictable plot twists, and quite a lot of fear over how it will all turn out in the end,” said Niven.