On August 31st, one day after the Republican National Convention ended in Tampa, a federal judge in Ohio issued a ruling that stymied an effort by Republican officials there to limit early voting dates for hundreds of thousands of registered voters. Citing the United States Supreme Court’s Bush v. Gore ruling, the 5-4 decision which ended the 2000 Florida recount, U.S. District Judge Peter Economus wrote that Ohio lawmakers and bureaucrats couldn’t, by “arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person’s vote over that of another.”
Upon receiving word of the federal court order, the man responsible for implementing Ohio’s election laws at first decided not to enforce it. Secretary of State Jon Husted, the Republican who had fought for years against voting rights advocates in and out of the courts as a lawmaker and, later, member of the executive branch, initially disregarded Judge Economus’ order. Not just that. He defied it. He specifically ordered his county election boards not to restore the early voting hours the judge had endorsed.
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?