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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Anyone who follows politics knows how important a Secretary of State can be in deciding how a state hands out its electoral college votes.

In 2000, Florida’s Secretary of State Katherine Harris (also co-chair of Bush/Cheney’s campaign in that state) purged enough voters from voter rolls in 2000 to give George W. Bush a chance to make the election so close it had to be decided in the Supreme Court. In 2004, extraordinarily long waits in Ohio caused up to 3 percent of voters in urban areas and around college campuses to leave their lines — possibly swinging the state to President Bush. Ohio’s Secretary of State that year was Ken Blackwell, the co-chair of Bush/Cheney’s Ohio campaign.

In 2008, Democrat Jennifer Brunner was Ohio’s Secretary of State. After a federally funded survey of Ohio’s elections, the state implemented extensive early voting—30 percent of the state voted early, including a large percentage of African-Americans, who are some of the president’s strongest supporters in the state.

After a wave election in 2010, Republicans across the nation began an active attempt to suppress the votes of Democratic-leaning citizens. Ohio’s newly elected Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted began to take steps to limit early voting.

Franklin County’s Republican Chair Doug Preisse told the Columbus Dispatch in August, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban—read African-American—voter-turnout machine.”

Counties were allowed to set their own hours — with Republican districts offering more opportunities to vote. When The New York Times noticed this discrimination, Husted made the hours uniform but canceled voting the weekend before the election for all voters except members of the military. Nearly 100,000 Ohioans voted the weekend before the election in 2008. The Obama campaign sued and  the Romney campaign falsely charged that they were trying to limit military voting.

A federal court ruled that the restrictions were “arbitrary” and opened voting to all eligible Ohioans. Husted first ordered officials not to comply with the ruling but relented when federal Judge Peter Economus called him into court.