Defend Hour Early Voting Privilege
By Rana Odeh
“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, Franklin County Republican Party Chairman and Elections Board member
I am dumbfounded by the racist, incredibly revealing comment above, made by one of Gov. John Kasich’s top advisors in a note to the Columbus Dispatch. Republicans can two-step all around the issue (they have) with early voting laws in Ohio by claiming it is an issue of funding and “fairness,” but nobody can dance around this comment. It’s not that Preisse is saying anything new, the Republican intentions are clear, but he just laid them flat out and that’s quite shocking. At least somebody is being honest about the Republican attempt to disenfranchise African-American voters in the hope that it will secure the presidential seat for Romney.
We are simultaneously dealing with two grave attacks on minority (Democrat-leaning) voting rights in America with the Voter ID law and changes to early voting hours. In both cases, Republicans are making it much more difficult for working-class people to cast their vote. In the world’s most developed democracy, where only half of the eligible voters vote, any attempt to further minimize voter turnout is shameful. Voting should be a convenient process, and our leadership should encourage everyone to vote, to increase voter turnout, not the other way around. What is convenient about early voting if it is only available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. … the exact hours that the average working American citizen works? Oh wait, there is the option of doing extra reading (which unfortunately many Americans on either side of the political spectrum don’t do), and filling out paperwork to register for an absentee ballet. If an option is a little less inconvenient, it does not mean it is convenient. Besides, people enjoy being physically present at voting polls, when the wait is tolerable, which is the purpose behind extended early voting hours. How could it possibly be a bad thing to give Americans more opportunities to vote? Since when do “equality” and “uniformity” matter in this free-market capitalist country in which African-Americans were enfranchised in the 1960s? The answer is when inequality benefits minority groups.
If Republicans are that concerned with early voting hours being unequal across the state according to funding, then perhaps they should ask the money-guzzling Romney campaign to funnel some money to pay for the extended hours in rural (Republican) precincts. I’m sure Sheldon Adelson could afford the bill and since he practically owns Romney at this point, it’s not that big of a leap for him to take. However, cutting back the hours in urban cities (Democratic precincts) just to “make the hours uniform,” is a leap off the democracy cliff. I would argue we already took that jump with the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision though, which paved the way for billionaire moguls like Adelson to provide unlimited campaign financing.
The thought of this country going backward by disenfranchising the working class, and money taking over our political system, is really frightening. I am concerned about the future of democracy in this country if Citizens United does not get overturned, and the Republicans continue to attack democratic principles. Ohioans can’t afford to lose early voting hours. If there is any solution to making early voting hours more uniform so that rural precincts can afford staffing, they should include after-work hours and weekends, and cut back on weekday work hours when people are much less likely to take advantage of the early voting. It does not make any sense to have early voting from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and to cut the most useful hours out, if funding is the issue. However, it is evident through the big hole in the argument … and Preisse’s ignorant statement, that this is just another Republican stunt to silence Democrats. Ohio is a very significant swing state in presidential elections, so the attempt by Republicans to secure the vote for Romney is clear. However, it is our responsibility as American citizens to defend our voting privilege and our voices against the multiple attempts to diminish them.
Rana Odeh is a DCP Debate Forum freelance writer. She holds a BA in English and Philosophy from UD and is currently a graduate student in the ICP Program at Wright State University. Reach Rana at RanaOdeh@DaytonCityPaper.com or view her work at RanaOdeh.com.