Toledo—When Mitt Romney’s dad was a candidate for president back in the 1960s, Republicans competed on the strength of their personalities and ideas.
It was the same when Newt Gingrich was an up-and-coming Republican leader in the 1980s and the early 1990s.
But no more?
Republicans have a new strategy for competing in tight elections.
In Ohio this fall, the party faces a serious challenge. Republican Governor John Kasich, a GOP “star” for the better part of three decades, has staked his political fortunes on an attempt to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees while undermining the ability of their unions to function.
The move has proven to be massively unpopular. More than 1.3 million Ohioans signed petitions that forced a referendum on whether to implement the anti-labor law. Polls show that Ohioans are ready to do just that when they weigh in on referendum Issue 2.
But Ohio’s Republican secretary of state is trying to make it a whole lot harder for Ohioans to cast those votes.
On Friday, across Ohio, county boards of elections shut down early voting for next Tuesday’s election. They did so on orders from Secretary of State Jon Husted. A Republican stalwart,
Husted served as the party’s legislative point man (rising to the rank of Ohio House Speaker), co-chaired GOP campaigns (including that of 2008 presidential candidate John McCain) and has been closely tied to national conservative groups working on issues such as school choice and privatization. While serving in the legislature, Husted was allied with the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, which has been promoting Voter ID laws and other rule changes designed to suppress turnout.
Husted claimed a hastily passed and deliberately vague new state law, which took effect just last week, prohibits early voting in the three days before the election. That’s a dramatic change from traditional practice in Ohio, where early voting on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before high-profile elections has been allowed for years—and has permitted tens of thousands of citizens to participate in the process.
The law in question, Ohio House Bill 224, was written primarily to deal with military ballots. Yet, Husted is interpreting it as a bar on early voting. State Representative Kathleen Clyde, a Democrat who represents Kent, says Hustad is essentially creating his own rules.
“When you take out major chunks” of the legislation, as Husted has, explains Clyde, “the bill is now unreadable and incomprehensible.”
But the confusion has worked for Husted and the GOP. County election officials have, at his behest, shut down early voting across Ohio.
That’s caused protests across Ohio. In Toledo, crowds showed up outside the offices of the Lucas County Board of Elections, which had scheduled business hours for Saturday and Sunday but canceled them to comply with Husted’s order.