Judges Rule to Prevent Voting Rights Attacks, GOP Plays Anti-Gay Card

by Randy Shaw on October 29, 2004

Today a federal appeals court upheld an Ohio court order preventing Republicans from challenging over 23,000 new voter registrations. A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the GOP’s contention that because of some invalid addresses on the recent Democratic registrations, all 23,000 could be challenged. The challenges would have forced each voter to appear before boards of elections, severely hampering their ability to cast their votes. The 6th Circuit largely based their ruling on the lack of time available to give adequate hearings for each challenge.

The Republican attempts to deny voting rights to newly-registered African-Americans had prompted a major backlash across Ohio. African-American voters were and continue to be up in arms over the GOP’s plans to challenge their eligibility at the polls, and the anger had intensified with the announcement yesterday by the state’s Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell that as many as three Republicans would be allowed to challenge voters at each polling place. Blackwell, who is African-American, claimed to be carrying out the will of Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. in restricting voting rights.

Ken Blackwell’s now moot decision to potentially triple the number of Republicans allowed in polling booths to challenge voters was a direct response to the federal court’s Wednesday ruling preventing the scheduled mass hearings of challenged registrants. While the same judge was considering a legal attack on the entire election-day challenge process, a ruling striking down the process was thought likely be reversed by the conservative Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Blackwell’s attempt to create lengthy delays and chaos in Democratic precincts by a pre-Voting Act state law challenge process seemed like a smart strategy. But while the risk of election day confusion remains, African-Americans in Ohio have been energized by the GOP’s attack on their integrity and are more likely than ever to vote in record numbers.

African-Americans I spoke with were irate over Blackwell’s use of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr to justify his attempt to deny voting rights to African-Americans. Blackwell claimed that, like Dr. King, he would go to jail to guarantee the integrity of the voting process.

Today, in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Toledo, the community group ACORN held public protests against the challenge process, one of which resulted in a skirmish with GOP volunteers. The goal was to call attention to what the New York Times and others have described as an outrageous process that has no place in a democracy. The events will also build momentum for Tuesday GOTV in the state’s leading African-American communities.

GOP Plays Gay Card—Republican hysteria over Kerry’s referring to Mary Cheney as a lesbian revealed a deep psychological psychosis among right-wing religious fundamentalists toward gay and lesbians. On Wednesday, this illness was further displayed when the leader of the Kentucky GOP described the Democratic US Senate candidate as “limp wrested” and “not much of a man.”

On the radio in Kentucky I heard an ad for an Athens, Georgia congressional race. The announcer described the Democratic candidate as follows: “he says he shares our values but he spoke at an event put on by a gay group and said that gays may be the group most victimized by discrimination. He said that about gays!”

In Cincinnati, current law affirmatively allows discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. It is the only such law in America and many locals are supporting a measure repealing the law on the November 2 ballot (the state ballot has a domestic partners/gay marriage ban that is likely to go down to defeat)

Opponents of the initiative are running television commercials with elderly civil rights activist Fred Shuttlesworth. The ad describes how Shuttlesworth worked closely with Dr. King, had his house burned down twice, and was a key figure in the struggle for civil rights.

Shuttlesworth looks into the camera and says, “I fought my whole life for civil rights but measure 3 involves special rights. I support civil rights, not special rights.”

It’s a “special right” to be treated like everyone else? I sure hope Shuttlewsorth at least got paid well for sacrificing his reputation through this spot.

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