Reacting to Republican efforts to suppress their access to voting, leaders of the African American community and the AFL-CIO are mounting a massive effort to promote balloting by mail and in person voting at the Board of Elections prior to Nov. 6.
On Aug. 31, a federal judge overturned a GOP-sponsored law preventing in-person voting the weekend preceding the presidential election. Judge Peter C. Economus ruled that, since overseas and military personnel can vote on that weekend, Ohio could not deny the same right to all others.
Immediately following the court ruling, Ohio’s Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine announced he would appeal the decision and GOP Secretary of State Jon Husted issued a directive Tuesday to the 88 county election boards not to plan for voting the weekend prior to the election until the case is settled. Early voting begins in Ohio Oct. 2. Husted had previously banned voting at the boards on all weekends and after regular working hours, times used primarily by workers and African Americans expected to support the re-election of Pres. Barack Obama.
Husted, the defendant in the suit brought by Obama campaign and the Democratic Party, did not dispute data presented to the court that the majority of those voting on weekend and extended hours in 2008 were African American.
In fact, as a result of a major effort by black churches to bring “souls to the polls” some 93,000 Ohioans voted at election boards the Sunday before that election. Fifty-six percent lived in predominantly African American precincts, according to Norman Robbins, a retired professor at Case Western Reserve University and director of Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates.
“The Republicans brought us all together,” Rev. Aaron Phillips, director of the Cleveland branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Council, said at a press conference Friday on the steps of the Euclid Ave. Congregational Church across from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.
“They are trying to discourage people from voting,” he said. “But we are not just angry — we are organized.”
Over 30 black ministers calling themselves the United Clergy of Greater Cleveland, attended the event. They represented the Baptist Ministers Conference, the Pastors’ Council and the United Pastors in Mission and are affiliated with the Ohio Unity Coalition headed by Pete Talley, Secretary-Treasurer of the Ohio AFL-CIO.
“We celebrate the partnership between labor and the faith-based community,” Harriet Applegate, Executive Secretary of the North Shore AFL-CIO, said. “There is nothing more sacred than the right to vote. It is the cornerstone of democracy.”
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