Commentary

05.25.17

Ken Blackwell’s “Greatest” Hits: Voting Edition

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Voters casting ballots

President Trump has created an “election integrity” commission to investigate voter fraud and voter suppression in the United States. Serving as the commission’s chair and vice chair are Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, respectively, with former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell serving as well.

Blackwell’s appointment is particularly frightening, as his tenure as Ohio Secretary of State was marked with several attempts at voter suppression.

Let’s recall some of his “Greatest Hits”:

  1. Blackwell tried to reject thousands of voter registration forms because they were on the wrong weight of paper.  No eligible voter should be disenfranchised because of a technicality, much less because of the weight of paper they used to fill out their form!
  2. He prohibited people who requested an absentee ballot from voting provisionally if they did not receive their absentee ballot in the mail.
  3. Blackwell and 21 other county boards of elections were sued by the Ohio Justice and Policy Center for advising voters they could not vote while on probation or parole.  If Blackwell had instructed election officials to properly inform individuals with criminal convictions about their right to vote, several thousand more Ohioans would have participated in the 2004 elections.
  4. Blackwell and former Director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Barbara Rile were sued for failing to provide voter registration opportunities in public assistance offices as required by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.
  5. Blackwell issued Directive 2004-33 to Ohio’s local election officials which instructed poll workers to confirm a voter’s eligibility before issuing a provisional ballot. Thousands of voters were denied a provisional ballot because of his exclusionary voting directives.
  6. Lastly, Blackwell’s track record as Ohio’s election officer demonstrates a man dedicated to partisan politics. In October 2004, Blackwell sent a letter to GOP supporters while he was serving as Secretary of State, stressing the importance of the anti-gay marriage ballot issue. He also emphasized voting for this issue would draw other conservative supporters to the polls who would most likely vote for then-President George W. Bush.

Blackwell showed no inclination for fair voting practices while he was Ohio Secretary of State, and there is no indication he has had a change of heart. The primary perpetrators of voter fraud are not the electorate or political organizations, but the state governments that seek to disenfranchise the most vulnerable.

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