In blow to Romney, court says Ohio can’t restrict 'souls to the polls' voting by blacks
A federal appeals court says an Ohio decision to allow only military personnel three days of early voting is unconstitutional. It could help Obama and hurt Romney in a critical swing state.
(Page 2 of 2)
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"It just so happened that this was the first time that early voting had been used in large numbers to mobilize African American and Latino voters," Wendy Weiser, who directs the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, tells the Huffington Post.
The key sticking point for Republicans has been accommodations for special groups of voters versus the right of states to ensure voting integrity. It’s not an extreme position. Two-thirds of Americans want tougher restrictions, such as voter ID, at the polls, even though many critics liken such restrictions to Jim Crow-era poll taxes.
When Florida passed a tough new voter registration law last year, a sponsor, Sen. Mike Bennett, said he didn’t “have a problem making [voting] harder. I want people in Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who walks 200 miles across the desert [to vote]. This should not be easy.”
That sentiment has been echoed by officials in Ohio.
“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban – read African-American – voter-turnout machine,” Doug Preisse, chairman of the county Republican Party and elections board member, wrote in an email to the Columbus Dispatch. “Let’s be fair and reasonable.”
To some, a Republican peel back of early voting is “a clear strike at ‘souls to the polls’ campaign that encourage African-American voters to go vote after church before Election Day,” writes Brentin Mock, a reporter for Colorlines.com.
Democrats have claimed victory in most of the court challenges, and their passion around voting rights, especially on the political left, is understandable. Voter registration analysis suggests that new voter sign-ups in key states like Ohio, Iowa, and Florida have all lagged dramatically behind the surge that came ahead of the 2008 election, when the US elected its first black president.
That discrepancy, political experts say, can’t be completely chalked up to tougher registration restrictions imposed by Republicans. It also speaks to the Obama campaign’s difficulty in mustering the enthusiasm of 2008 amid high unemployment, falling median incomes, and a steadily rising federal debt.