An Ohio election official who had voted against the weekend voting hours that more than 200,000 Ohioans made use of during the 2008 election suggested on Sunday that he saw the extended hours as an unnecessary “contortion” of the voting process designed to benefit African-Americans.
Doug Priesse, who is the chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party and a member of that county’s Board of Elections, told the Columbus Dispatch, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine. … Let’s be fair and reasonable.”
He also described Democratic charges of unfairness as “bullshit” and added, “Quote me!.”
Priesse was described as a close adviser to Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich earlier this year, when he was tapped for then-presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s leadership team. He had previously headed Kasich’s inaugural committee.
The dispute over Ohio voting hours erupted earlier this month, after it was learned that Republicans had colluded to maintain extended voting hours in Republican-majority counties while eliminating them in Democratic-majority counties.
The dispute had seemed to be resolved when Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted mandated that voting hours would be uniform in all counties — but still reduced from what they had been in 2008. That did not satisfy African-American leaders, who say that weekend voting is essential because the more limited hours disenfranchise many working people.
Husted also attempted to oust two Democratic members of the Montgomery County Board of Elections who had stated that they would defy his directive and allow weekend voting. That matter is to come up for a hearing on Monday. In addition, a lawsuit brought by Democrats and the Obama campaign to restore voting on the three days before the election is still before the courts.
Republican officials cite cost and “confusion” as arguments against, weekend voting, but African-Americans remain skeptical. “As a result of historical discrimination against African-American voters, in addition to the recent wave of suppressive voter laws being enacted in statehouses across the country, African-American voters are skeptical of any laws aimed at limiting the opportunity to vote,” one NAACP official explained.
African-American voters in Franklin County, which includes the city of Columbus, plan to march to a special meeting of the Board of Elections on Monday and demand the restoration of the extended voting hours.
Photo of 2008 Ohio early voters Tony the Tiger and Nate Parker by TonyTheTiger at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (//creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (//www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons