Voter Suppression – Part 3

For this part of the series, I’m moving north to look at Ohio. Ohio has been a stronghold for Republicans since before the Civil War, with only infrequent periods of Democratic state leadership. So, unlike the states south of the Ohio River, the Jim Crow Laws in Ohio were enacted by Republicans and overturned under a period of Democratic state leadership, followed by further overturns with a Republican state leadership. When Ohio passed laws in 1953 that marked a move towards segregation and racial inequality, it was under a predominantly Republican administration.

To be fair, Civil Rights leaders like B.W. Arnett were members of the Ohio Republican Party and were very vocal in the fight for rights. I don’t want to lose sight of that. But I also don’t want to lose sight of the fight within the party over Civil Rights and how that has shaped over time. Arnett’s day was back when McKinley was president. How have things changed in the 120 intervening years?

If you’re Black in Ohio, generally for the worse. Especially recently, after the Husted v APRI ruling.

Husted came down in 2018. The defendant in the case was one Jon Husted, the Republican Secretary of State for Ohio. He had removed about half a million voters from the rolls in 2016, using methods that went directly against the NVRA of 1993. That is to say, his criteria for removing a voter included failure to vote in an election.

The APRI, plaintiff in the case, is the A. Philip Randolph Institute, named for one of the most effective crusaders for civil rights in the USA. Randolph was the organizer of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, who were able to cross the nation and coordinate civil rights efforts. They’re the ones who organized and paid for the 1963 March on Washington.

APRI’s lawsuit was over Husted’s removal of 426,781 voters in 2016, following a larger purge of voters after Obama’s re-election in 2012, totaling over 1,000,000 voters in Ohio. All of these, Husted claimed had moved out of Ohio, in spite of demographic evidence much to the contrary of such a mass exodus. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the APRI because Husted’s move was a clear violation of the NVRA – and that it nakedly targeted Blacks made it all the more egregious.

But, states are allowed to appeal up to the Supreme Court automatically, and the Republican-dominated Court found a way to rule in favor of Husted. This being the same court that gave us Citizens United and the Shelby ruling that dismantled the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Republicans returned a verdict that struck to the core of the NVRA.

The dissenting opinions called out that 1 million voters was 13% of Ohio’s voting population and that the way that those voters ere from Black-majority neighborhoods was particularly troubling to them. 10% of Black voters were removed, but only 4% of Whites lost their votes.

Alito’s majority opinion simply argued that the APRI had failed to demonstrate concretely that the removed voters had *not* moved.

With a ruling that defied logic and Civil Rights, the Husted case opened up a legal route for other Republican governors to disenfranchise Black voters. Kemp in Georgia was the first to take advantage, followed by Arizona, Michigan, Florida, and other Republican-dominated states. Millions of Black voters have lost their vote because the Republican Party sees to it that enemies of Civil Rights get put on the federal bench, when they get a chance to make appointments.

Even though methods of address list hygiene used by the mass-mail industry are available and highly accurate, the Republicans continue to use inaccurate methods that disproportionately target Black voters when they are applied.

And when a story ran in The New York Times in 2019 about how 40,000 voters had had their votes restored in Ohio, the article failed to do a demographic summary of those voters whose votes were *not* restored: two of every three of those were Democrats. I’ll add that the story itself was wrong to focus on voters that hadn’t been purged – the story should have been that a purge was going on in the first place!

This is the third of three states I’ve looked at with a Republican-dominated state government that has systematically suppressed African-American voting rights. It may not have as rich and deep a Jim Crow past as the Deep South states, but it has one. Sadly, rather than embrace the ideals of the great B.W. Arnett, the Ohio Republican Party has copied George Wallace, as evidenced in Ohio State Senator Steve Huffman, who tried to put a racist framework around COVID-19 infection rates.

I’ll look to another Northern Republican state for my next article in this series, because Ohio is by no means isolated.

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