Does the pernicious war on voting access require any less of a moral response than the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s?
Welcome, Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie Sr., to what surely is a select group in history -- election officials who get threatened with dismissal for trying to help voters vote. The two men work in Montgomery County, Ohio, and today they are fighting for their jobs. The men are Democrats and are involved in a political fight with the Ohio Secretary of State, a Republican named Jon Husted. On Friday, Husted suspended Lieberman and Ritchie for disregarding a recent early-voting directive from his statewide office.
What was the transgression that could cost the two men their positions? Lieberman and Ritchie had the temerity to propose that county election officials should continue to offer early-voting hours on weekends to registered Ohio voters so that more of those voters could more easily cast their votes. Earlier last week, under fire and in court, Husted had decided that all elections offices statewide would limit office hours this cycle, a move Democrats said would deprive Ohioans of dozens of days worth of early voting.
On Sunday, the Columbus Dispatch reported:
Husted said he based his decision to bar weekend hours after consulting with local elections officials, many of whom were concerned about cost. But Aaron Ockerman, executive director of the Ohio Association Election Officials, told the Dispatch that "we would make that work" if directed to stay open until, say, noon the Saturday before the election.
Husted now alleges insubordination. And what do his mutineers Lieberman and Ritchie say? Ritchie says that the Republican limitations on early voting hours represent "a continued attempt to suppress Americans from exercising their right to vote." Lieberman says: "I believe that this is so critical to our freedom on America, and to individual rights to vote, that I am doing what I think is right... In 10 years, I've never received a threat that if I don't do what they want me to do, I could be fired."