Despite long lines, voter suppression laws and Republican efforts to discourage voting, President Obama won reelection last night. Many of these roadblocks to voting did not happen by accident. Meet five of the Republican state elections officials who spent this election cycle thwarting the franchise:
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is the Katherine Harris of 2012. Few, if any officials in the country did more to skew a state’s vote to increase Mitt Romney’s chances of winning this election. Husted advocated firmly and repeatedly to cut early voting in Ohio, potentially disenfranchising thousands of voters who lack the job flexibility to vote on election day. He openly defied a court order requiring early voting hours to be restored, although he eventually backed down after a federal ordered him to attend a court hearing regarding this refusal to comply with the law. And he retaliated against his opponents by firing them. To top it off, Husted issued a last-minute directive that directly conflicts with Ohio law which could lead to thousands of provisional ballots being trashed.
Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner is Tea Party Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) hand-picked chief elections official, so he played a leadership role in Scott’s discredited plan to purge thousands of Florida voters from the state’s voter rolls. According to the Tampa Bay Times, “Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters [were] the most likely to be targeted” by this purge. About 58 percent of the voters targeted by the purge are Hispanic, a demographic that overwhelmingly favored President Obama. The list of supposed non-citizens proved unreliable, however, and the purge was eventually shut down after the state’s local elections supervisors refused to move forward with it. Nevertheless, Detzner vowed to restart the purge at one point saying it was his “moral duty” to purge people from the voter rolls. To date, Florida’s purge caught just one non-citizen voter.
Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler is currently under investigation for allegedly misusing taxpayer dollars to travel to a Republican National Lawyers Association event. Even if these allegations prove false, however, Gessler has still distinguished himself through his efforts to restrict the franchise. As a candidate for his current job, Gessler campaigned on a promise to fight the wildly exaggerated problem of election fraud. As Colorado’s chief elections official, Gessler spearheaded a voter purge targeting thousands of alleged non-citizens on his state’s voter rolls. He was eventually forced to largely abandon this purge, however, after his efforts revealed that non-citizen voting is a virtually non-existent problem.
As Pennsylvania’s Secretary of the Commonwealth, Carol Aichele played a key role in defending that state’s voter ID law — despite her admission during court testimony that she does not “know what the law says.” After state officials released data indicating that 9 percent of the state’s voters lacked the ID required by the law, Aichele claimed that the real number was actually closer to 1 percent. When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court expressed skepticism that the voter suppression law would not disenfranchise voters, Aichele announced minor tweeks to the requirements to obtain an ID in Pennsylvania. The judiciary deemed this dodge insufficient, and largely suspended the law. Nevertheless, Pennsylvania continued to run misleading ads suggesting that voters must show ID in order to vote.
Like Colorado and Florida, Iowa attempted its own voter purge targeting the illusionary problem of non-citizen voting, with Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz spearheading this purge. An Iowa court temporarily blocked this purge, however, warning that it “created confusion and mistrust in the voter registration process [and] have created fear that new citizens will lose their right to vote and/or be charged with a felony and [have] caused some qualified voters to feel deterred from even registering to vote.”
Indiana’s Republican former Secretary of State Charlie White was removed from office last February after he was convicted of six felony counts of perjury, theft and election fraud.