Ohio's GOP-controlled legislature has passed a repressive
new law that will gut free elections here and is already surfacing elsewhere
around the US. The bill will continue the process of installing the GOP as America's
permanent ruling party.
Coming with the swearing in of right-wing extremist Supreme
Court Justice Samuel Alito, it marks another dark day for what remains of
Called HB3, the law now demands discriminatory voter ID,
severely cripples the possibility of statewide recounts and actually ends the
process of state-based challenges to federal elections -- most importantly for
president -- held within the state.
In other words, the type of legal challenge mounted to the
theft of Ohio's electoral votes in the 2004 election will now be all but
impossible in the future.
Section 35-05.18 of HB3 requires restrictive identification
requirements for anyone trying to vote in an Ohio election. Photo ID, a utility
bill, a bank statement, a government check or other government document showing
the name and current address of the voter will be required.
This requirement is perfectly designed to slow down the
voting process in inner city precincts. It allows Republican
"challengers" to intimidate anyone who turns up to vote in heavily
Democratic precincts. It virtually eliminates the homeless, elderly and
impoverished from the voting rolls. Election protection advocates estimate this
requirement will erase 100,000 to 200,000 voters in a typical statewide
election. By way of reference, George W. Bush allegedly carried Ohio -- and the
presidency -- by less than 119,000 votes in 2004.
The ID requirement is the direct result of intervention by
two high-powered Republican attorneys with ties to the White House and Senate
Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). Congressman Bob Ney allowed the
Bush-Cheney re-election national counsel Mark
"Thor" Hearne to testify last March as a so-called
"voting rights advocate." Hearne, whose resume shows no connection to
voting rights organizations, was responsible for advising
the Bush-Cheney campaign on national litigation and election law
strategy during the 2004 election.
Hearne, with the help of Republican attorney Alex Vogel,
concocted a story that the problem with the 2004 elections in Ohio was the
NAACP paying people with crack cocaine to register voters. Vogel's front group,
the Free Enterprise Coalition, even indemnified a local Republican operative,
Mark Rubrick, to file an Ohio corrupt practices act suit against the NAACP, the
AFL-CIO, ACT-Ohio and ACORN, The suit was later quietly withdrawn after
discovery showed that the operatives behind it were linked to the top levels of
the Republican Party.
Ironically, the Republican Party engaged in racist and
massive voter repression in Ohio and are now institutionalizing that very Jim
Crow-style repression and selling it as an election reform bill.
HB3 also ends the ability of the public to conduct
meaningful audits of voting machines. Election protection activists recently
forced the adoption of an auditable paper trail into the Ohio election process.
In a state where virtually all ballots are cast and/or counted on electronic
equipment, this cuts to the core of the ability to monitor an election's
outcome. The new provision in HB3 will make the paper trail virtually
HB3 further imposes a huge jump in the cost of forcing a
recount. In 2004, the charge was $10 per precinct, with some 11,366 precincts
in the state. Thus the Green and Libertarian Parties, which paid for it, had to
pay somewhat more than $113,660. Now the charge will be $50 per precinct,
jumping the charge to some $568,300.
Finally, and perhaps most astonishingly, HB3 eliminates the
state statutes that have allowed citizens to challenge the outcome of federal
elections within the state. After the 2004 election, election protection
advocates filed a challenge to Bush's victory. Their attorneys were attacked
with an official attempt to levy sanctions, and then were thwarted from an
effective suit when GOP Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell locked up the
state's voter records.
But HB3 would now entirely eliminate any possibility of a
state-based legal challenge. The only alleged recourse for those wishing to
officially question the vote count in a presidential, US Senate or US House
race in Ohio would be at the United States Congress. There is now no recourse
whatsoever on the state level.
Despite grassroots protests and bitter opposition from
Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and other pro-democracy groups, HB3
passed with only one Republican vote against it (all Ohio Democratic senators
and representatives voted against).
So the Ohio GOP has taken another giant step toward ending
the possibility of any other party ever taking power in the Buckeye State. When
combined with new campaign finance laws that allow huge chunks of private and
corporate money to flow virtually unregulated into GOP coffers, HB3 may have all
but ended free elections in Ohio -- at least until election protection forces
can somehow reverse the trend. .
Since the Civil War, only one presidential candidate -- John
F. Kennedy in 1960 -- has won the White House without carrying Ohio. This and the
other repressive legislation passed by the Ohio GOP will make it virtually
impossible for anyone but a Republican to carry the Buckeye State in future
statewide and federal elections.
Bills like HB3 are also being lined up to flow through
Republican-controlled legislatures throughout the US, including a very similar
one in Georgia. "This comes straight from Karl Rove," says Cliff
Arnebeck, one of Ohio's leading election protection attorneys. "This
legislation originates with a demand that one-party rule by made permanent
throughout the United States."
With today's passage of Ohio HB3, along with the seating of
Justice Alito, the GOP grip on the American throat has very significantly
Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of "How
the GOP Stole America's 2004 Election and Is Rigging 2008".
They are co-editors, with Steve Rosenfeld, of "What Happened in
Ohio?" forthcoming from the New Press.