The Ohio Republican Party has escalated its attacks on
democracy on two key fronts.
It�s trying to steal a hotly contested congressional seat.
And it�s moving to restrict voting rights for coming elections.
In the bitterly embattled House race in central Ohio�s 15th
Congressional District, Republican State Senator Steve Stivers has a slight
lead over Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy.
Two years ago, Kilroy essentially defeated the previous
incumbent, fourth-ranked House Republican Deborah Pryce. In an extremely tight
race, a wide range of dubious voter eliminations and manipulated vote counts
stole what appears to have been a clear victory from Kilroy. The GOP�s infamous
J. Kenneth Blackwell was still Ohio�s Secretary of State. The Democrats
declined to take him on, and the seat remained in Republican hands.
This year Ohio�s Secretary of State is Democrat Jennifer Brunner.
It would appear Kilroy has won again.
But the Republicans are on their usual
anti-voter attack. With the help of Matt Damshroeder, Deputy Director of the
Franklin County Board of Elections, the GOP has used a range of insider
information to challenge about a thousand provisional ballots cast in heavily
Democratic areas of the district. In particular they argue that a minor voter
omission on the ballots should disqualify them. If they win that case, Stivers
might well take the seat.
Brunner has gone to federal court asking that all the votes
be counted. A decision from Judge Algernon Marbley was expected on Thursday.
Damshroeder�s role reflects a classic Democratic
indifference to election protection. Damshroeder is a past chair of the
Franklin County GOP. He also served as the county chair for the 2004
Prior to that election, while acting as Director of the
Franklin County BOE, Damshroeder accepted a $10,000 check from a Diebold
representative in his office at the BOE. The board was deciding at the time
whether or not to buy Diebold machines.
Damshroeder asked that the check be made out to the Franklin
County Republican Party. When the incident surfaced in the media, he apologized
for the �impropriety.� But the GOP kept the check. And Damshroeder was �punished�
with one month�s paid leave, even though Democrats could have had him removed.
Damshroeder is now Deputy BOE Director. His insider enabling
role in the attempt to disenfranchise a thousand voters in his own district is problematic
at best. The Ohio Democratic Party has finally issued a few angry e-blasts
about it. But Brunner has the power to actually remove Damshroder. Doing so
would send a message the Dems are finally serious about election protection.
The Republicans are also trying to make it harder for the
general public to vote in the next election. In the lame duck session after the
theft of the 2004 election, the GOP-controlled Legislature passed an extremely
restrictive bill aimed at disenfranchising thousands of Ohioans and making
recounts of federal balloting virtually impossible.
But the GOP inadvertently included a provision that allowed
new voters to register and cast a ballot on the same day. In 2008 the GOP sued
Brunner to try to close that window. But Brunner prevailed in court, and tens
of thousands of first-time voters came out to the polls in late September and
the first week of October. By some news accounts these early voters backed
Obama by margins as high as 12:1.
The embarrassed and angry Republicans have now vowed to rid
the process of this pro-voter opening in the upcoming lame duck session of the
Legislature. But if they do, it�s likely the new governor, Democrat Ted
Strickand, will veto the bill and sit on it. Next year the Democrats will
control the Ohio House, and are unlikely to allow such a bill to go through.
By then, perhaps Matt Damshroeder will be out of a job, and
Mary Jo Kilroy will be in Congress. But one thing is certain: the GOP attack on
the right to vote is unlikely to have abated.
Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman have
co-authored four books on election protection, including HOW THE GOP STOLE
AMERICA�S 2004 ELECTION . . . and AS GOES OHIO, available at www.freepress.org, where this article
first appeared. Their radio shows are broadcast at WVKO-AM 1580, Air America in