“Our vote is our passport to democracy and freedom,” said Charles Holmes, a retired pastor from the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Dayton, Ohio. He was speaking this morning to a group of 180 protesters in front of the offices of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted in downtown Columbus. “In Ohio and all across the nation, there is an effort to take away your vote, by tricks like photo ID and reducing the number of early voting hours,” Reverend Holmes said. “This is reprehensible.” As the November election nears, the controversy over voting rights and voter suppression has been heating up in Ohio and other key battleground states. On Friday, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted suspended two Democrats on the Montgomery County Board of Elections for refusing to back down on a proposal to allow weekend early voting. Husted had issued a directive on Wednesday that all 88 Ohio counties would allow some weekday evening early voting hours, but no early voting on weekends. “Secretary Husted is wrong to punish Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie for voting to extend weekend voting hours,” Reverend Holmes said. “We owe these two men the debt of our gratitude for standing up for all voters, not just some. Jon Husted is supposed to be an impartial referee. But he’s working in partisan ways to reduce the total vote count, just as his mentor, Ken Blackwell, did in 2004.”
Ritchie and Lieberman spoke at the rally before their 9 a.m. meeting with Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, where they had been summoned to explain why they should not be fired. “I’ve always exercised my right to to speak my opinion, and do the things that I think are right,” said Tom Ritchie. “I’ve always exercised that right without fear of punishment. I feel that I did the right thing for the voters of Montgomery County. Let’s open the polls and let the people vote. Let them be heard. Between the two of us, Tom and I have 27 years’ experience on the Montgomery County Board of Elections,” said Dennis Lieberman. “Neither one of us has ever been fired before, so this is kind of a unique experience.