Ohio Vote Supression 101 - Target The New Voters
The Bush Cheney campaign is taking dead aim at the newly registered voters in Ohio. How? Ohio election law gives them an opening, and Ohio's Republican secretary of state is doing his best Katherine Harris impersonation in order to plow a Mack truck through it.
Like most state election laws, Ohio provides for "challengers" at each polling place, representatives of the political parties who have the right to challenge a voter's eligibility. Challenges may be made on the grounds that the elector is not a citizen, has not been resident for thirty days prior to the election, is not of legal age, or....here's the kicker...is not a resident of the precinct or county where the voter has appeared to vote.
Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's recent directive on provisional ballots ties this all together, hinging on the linch pin of precinct residency.
Provisional ballots are special ballots for voters who show up to vote, believe they are registered, but their names do not appear on the precinct list. Such voters are given provisional ballots on which to vote, which are set aside from the normally cast ballots at the precinct and not counted with the other ballots. In the period between election day and the certification of final results, election officials further inspect the ballots to determine if the voters are indeed registered, then the legitimate ballots are counted, the others discarded.
Blackwell's directive orders that provisional ballots will only be given to voters who can prove that, while they are not on the list, they do live in the precinct covered by the polling place. It also orders that if such ballots are cast in spite of the order (Cuyahoga County has said it will ignore this directive), provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct will not be counted.
Over 200,000 new voters have registered in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) since 2000. Most have been in poor black neighborhoods, where people move around a lot. It is likely that many new voters will merely go to the polling place nearest their current address, not necessarily the polling place for the address at which they may have registered one year ago, or even 6 months ago, out of convenience and lack of information.
It is also likely that such voters will be showing up to the precinct with little time on their hands to go and find the correct precinct in which to vote. Most such voters have jobs, children, day care, and other responsibilities, forcing them to squeeze voting into whatever spare minute they have...probably at the end of the day, when polls are about to close.
The gauntlet for new voters doesn't end there. A vague ID requirement for the new voters is still to be clarified - what constitutes valid ID? Driver's license? Utility bills? Who has to provide ID? If you moved and re-registered, does your registration in the new precinct make you a "new" voter, triggering an ID requirement? If you are registered in more than one place (likely, as voter lists are rarely purged in a timely manner), does this make your provisional ballot illegally cast?
With all this vaguery, it's not hard to see how the Bush Cheney operation might work. Challenge every voter's residency, demand ID from everyone, scaring off many of them, and forcing as many voters as possible to cast provisional ballots, knowing that Blackwell will not count them. In this way, they can suppress black turnout during election day, and if there is a recount, thousands of provisional ballots in Cuyahoga County (the Democratic base) will not be counted.
The true irony is that many of the rules being cited to launch such voter suppression operations are from the post-Florida Recount Help America Vote Act (HAVA). You thought No Child Left Behind was a joke...try HAVA on for size, now being used by Republican secretaries of state across america, not just in Ohio, taking wrinkles in registration requirements and working them to supress turnout.
These fuckers are clever, you have to give them that. Fasten your seatbelts.