Ken Blackwell, the Republican former Ohio Secretary of State who presided over President George W. Bush’s 2004 win, on Tuesday suggested that “groups that turn out high numbers of voters” — instead of restrictions on early voting — were to blame for long lines in African American precincts.
During an election night appearance on MSNBC, Blackwell explained that the county boards of elections had not deliberately placed too few voting machines in black precincts.
“They have to make practical decisions,” he told host Chris Wallace. “They make decisions based on turnout patterns of elections, they put those voting machines and then what happens? There’s tremendous organizational effort by Democrats and various groups, labor groups. And they get a great turnout. What does that cause? That causes long lines. Nobody is out there deliberately trying to suppress the vote.”
“There are people deliberately trying to suppress the vote, let’s get that straight,” Matthews interrupted.
“I think there was a tremendous turnout in African Americans,” Blackwell insisted. “Did they have to stand in line? Yes. Why? Because there was a tremendous organizational effort to turnout the vote.”
MSNBC host Al Sharpton pointed out that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted had worked to cut back early voting hours, including the Sunday before election day when many African Americans go to the polls.
“He did end up cutting early voting hours,” host Rachel Maddow agreed. “In terms of the state of Ohio right now, part of the reason there’s long lines is that early voting hours got cut after they tried to cut early voting days. So we don’t need to put that on you, that wasn’t your decision, but that is what happened in the state.”
“I thought it was a bad move to try to take away — to try to block the tradition of voting on the Sunday before elections,” Blackwell agreed. “That was his call. But the reality is we’ve had long lines due to the success of groups that turn out high numbers of voters.”
Watch this video from MSNBC, broadcast Nov. 6, 2012.