It was only when the judge ordered Husted to court to personally explain his disobedience, a sure sign of judicial anger, that Husted relented. Relented -- but did not give up. Husted appealed Judge Economus' ruling to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in Ohio. No dice. On October 5th, the 6th Circuit affirmed Judge Economus' order. Husted then appealed again, to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that the federal courts shouldn't mess with state election laws. Again, no dice. The justices refused to hear the appeal.
Over the past year, in one election-related fight after another, Husted has proven to be a relentless partisan, the national face of voter suppression. Now, with one week to go before a close election, an election which many political observers believe could come down to Ohio, Husted is about to become something else: an unabashed local partisan who could very well decide who wins by deciding which rules apply. Is America ready for this? Ready for this man to be the one supervising the vote counting in the only state left that seems to matter?
It was hardly a landslide, but Barack Obama won Ohio's 20 electoral votes in 2008 with 51.2 percent of the tally, receiving roughly 200,000 more votes than John McCain. It was the first time a Democrat had won the state since Bill Clinton in 1996, and only the third time a Democrat had won the prize since Jimmy Carter's victory in 1976. In the wake of the 2008 election, concerned that the Obama campaign's "ground game" had overwhelmed their Republican counterpart, state GOP leaders decided to do something about it.
One of the tactics they employed to neutralize the Democrats' advantage in voter registration, and early voting, was to make it harder for likely Democratic voters to cast early "absentee" ballots. Ohio Republicans achieved this goal in June 2011, thanks to a legislature infused with Tea Partiers from the 2010 midterm elections. The lawmakers sought to gut a popular 2005 state law -- one that had been enacted with Republican support -- that allowed registered voters to cast their "absentee ballots" until the day before the election.
But the Republicans' 2011 endeavor was a sloppy affair. The new law, HB 194, conflicted with another Ohio election statute, so legislators quickly passed another election law designed to clarify the intent of HB 194. In the meantime, HB 194 was suspended. In May 2012, Ohio's Republicans passed a third law, repealing HB 194 but not the intervening state law. And then there was the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, the 2009 federal law designed to ensure that service personnel and their families had plenty of time to cast their ballots.
One provision seemed to restrict registered voters' early voting rights. Another seemed to give them broader rights. And a third seemed to give different rights to different groups of voters. But if the texts of the measures were read together, the legislative purpose was as clear as it was unconstitutional: If you were a likely Republican voter, the Republican lawmakers wanted to give you lots of early voting time. But if you were not, lawmakers were looking for justifications to restrict your early voting days.