Congresswoman Marcia Fudge Rallies the Troops on Voter Suppression


These ladies are pissed — and with good reason (l to r: Nina Turner, Sandra Williams, Marcia Fudge)

The other day I spotlighted Secretary of State Jon Husted’s egregiously partisan decision to limit voting opportunities for the citizens of Cuyahoga County.

The county board of elections had split along party lines, with Democrats Sandy McNair and Inajo Chappell voting in favor of maintaining extended in-person early voting hours as in other recent elections, and Republicans Deborah Sutherland and Jeff Hastings voting to curtail them, limiting them to weekday business hours. Husted cast the tie-breaking vote.

Contact Jon Husted: 614-387-7323.

This morning Congresswoman Marcia Fudge gathered elected officials, pastors, labor leaders, and citizens in front of the county Board of Elections building at Euclid and E. 30th to send a message to Husted, as well as to Sutherland and Hastings: shame on you for rolling back voting rights granted in recent elections and turning back the clock.

“Why now?” she asked, responding with a sports metaphor. “They’re trying to shave off two, three, four points. In the 2008 election, the President won by four percentage points. If they can shave four points, they can win.”

Republicans have given feeble justifications like cost (democracy is too expensive!) and providing similar voting opportunities for all voters — regardless of whether the needs of voters in urban Cuyahoga County remotely resemble those of voters in, say, rural Darke County.

But State senator Nina Turner and state representative Sandra Williams articulated what most of the assembled group were likely thinking.

“History repeats itself in an ugly way,” said Turner. “Jim Crow has packed his bags and is moving north.”

“This is a direct attempt to stop black churches and what they do best: Mobilize voters,” said Williams.

Several pastors also spoke, including the Rev. Tony Minor, who talked about how in 2008, black churches organized their members and non-member neighbors and took them down to the Board of Elections on Sundays to vote after services. That option now no longer exists.

“We’ve been planning for a Holy Sunday,” he said. “[Now] we’re planning for a Holy Monday, we’re planning for a Holy Tuesday, we’re planning for a Holy Wednesday, we’re planning for a Holy Thursday, we’re planning for a Holy Friday. … We will not be deterred.”

Cleveland councilman Zack Reed added, “We know this is about politics. I looked at the records. I saw the vast majority of individuals [who voted during the now-curtailed hours] came on buses and stood in line. The main motivation is to stop those individuals from coming down here and exercising their right to vote.”

Those people were, of course, primarily African-American, and more likely to vote for President Obama than Mitt Romney. And while most of the crowd and most of the speakers — including Cleveland councilpersons Mamie Mitchell and Kevin Conwell and state representatives Bill Patmon and John Barnes — were African-American, North Shore AFL-CIO executive secretary Harriet Applegate and Marty Gelfand from Dennis Kucinich’s office made it clear that this isn’t just a black issue. Gelfand helpfully provided a local number for Clevelanders to call Husted (216-
787-3000) and said that Kucinich had sent a letter to Husted.

Several people expressed special disappointment with board of elections chairman Jeff Hastings, who was a respected judge prior to joining the board of elections. While no one expects much from a lightweight like Bay Village Mayor Sutherland, many felt that Hastings ought to understand the implications of limiting voting opportunities that Turner said nearly 25,000 people took advantage of in 2008.