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 help end free elections and 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 American democracy.
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
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.
files/tbl_s47Details %5CFileUpload265%5C351 %5CTHOR_Insert.pdf.
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 meaningless.
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
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 Congressional 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 Senators and Representatives voted against).
So the Ohio 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 tightened.
Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are
co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008,
available at http://www.freepress.org/.
They are co-editors, with Steve Rosenfeld, of
WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO? forthcoming from the New Press.