Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s recent decision to prohibit early voting on nights and weekends in all districts has many concerned about the effect on voter turnout in the state, particularly among low-income and minority communities. But one Republican Party chairman is content to suppress votes among this vulnerable demographic. Doug Preisse, chairman of the Republican Party in Franklin County, which contains the city of Columbus, admitted in an email to the Columbus Dispatch that black voters would now have a more difficult time voting:
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.
Preisse was one of the board of elections members who blocked Democratic efforts in Franklin County to expand voting hours to evenings and weekends. According to the Dispatch, he called claims of unfairness “bullshit. Quote me!”
Preisse also served on Newt Gingrich’s leadership team in Ohio during the primary and is a top political consultant to Ohio governor John Kasich (R).
In 2008, 82 percent of early voters in Franklin County voted on nights or weekends. The Secretary of State has defended the move to cut hours across the state by pointing to his initiative sending absentee ballots to every registered voter. But according to a study by Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates, black voters and Democrats prefer to cast their ballots in person, with 13.3 percent of black Ohioans casting early ballots in 2008 compared to just 8 percent of white voters.
Secretary of State Husted most recently suspended two Democratic members of the Montgomery County Election Board for voting to allow weekend voting in spite of the directive to restrict hours.