Political Animal


October 30, 2012 11:53 AM The New Katherine Harris

By Ed Kilgore

If you are into nightmare scenarios for next Tuesday, there are plenty available at the moment, ranging from Sandy-enabled delays in voting and/or changes in polling procedures to voter intimidation by suburban Tea Party zealots to the usual last-minute hijinks over polling places, voter lists, and ballot staffing.

But the most likely area of chaos is in Ohio, the state that according to virtually all polls remains a huge obstacle to the election of Mitt Romney. And if you’re looking for a villain-figure—this year’s Katherine Harris—Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has been auditioning for the role all year.

An profile of Husted by Andrew Cohen at The Atlantic emphasizes the man’s tireless devotion to the cause of advancing his party’s interests via voter suppression. Much of it involves Husted’s unblinking pursuit of appeals and even outright defiance when faced with a virtually unbroken series of conflicts with the federal judiciary, mostly over his efforts to restrict early voting opportunities. But he’s been equally intense in fighting the courts over the “right” of local election officials to disregard votes cast by eligible voters in the wrong precinct through no fault of their own. As Cohen observes, both of these battles go far beyond the usual GOP claims of “voter fraud” into the most naked partisanship:

Taking away early voting rights from Ohio citizens has nothing to do with voter fraud. Nor does discounting provisional ballots cast mistakenly as a result of a poll worker’s error. These are voter suppression efforts in their purest forms.

Unfortunately, voting rights advocates and the entire machinery of justice in Ohio seem to be engaged in an extended game of whack-a-mole with Husted, heading off one voter suppression effort only to race after another. It’s reasonable to expect that he might have some surprises in store for Ohio voters next Tuesday.

The analogy with Katherine Harris is not exact. She was a loyal foot soldier of the Bush campaign in Florida in 2000 who unsurprisingly did what was expected of her on every occasion, beginning with pre-election voter purges and continuing with her crucial early certification of victory for The Boss, which wound up being the real basis of the Supreme Court decision shutting down recounts and lifting W. to the presidency. But she did not impress anyone on either side as knowing much about election law. Husted has been pursuing the White Whale of voter suppression for years, dating back to his leadership position in the Ohio legislature. His position at the fiery center of this presidential election reflects not an accident, but a plan reaching fruition. Perhaps the judges have fenced him in to some extent, but I wouldn’t bet against him busting out between now and November 6.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • James E. Powell on October 30, 2012 12:10 PM:

    What Husted and the Republicans learned from 2000 is that if they can pull it off, they will get away with it. Sure, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth, but when it's all over, they will be in power. And the corporate press/media will back them up.

  • paul on October 30, 2012 12:16 PM:

    Voting is a civil right. Yet people like Husted never seem to get even investigate for the obvious federal crime.

  • ChicagoRob on October 30, 2012 12:23 PM:

    I don't understand why it's legal for partisans in a given election to be in charge of voting mechanisms for that election. It's conflict. of. interest.

  • Josef K on October 30, 2012 12:25 PM:

    Didn't Katherine try to leverage her 'experience' in FL for a job inside the Bush Administration, at which point she vanished from public life entirely?

    Okay, let's say Herr Jon does do something as overtly stupid as hand Ohio's 18 EVs to Romney...and its still not enough to close the deal. What then?

  • ARK3000 on October 30, 2012 12:26 PM:

    Check out Michigan's SOS. Cut from the same bolt of cloth.

  • c u n d gulag on October 30, 2012 12:27 PM:

    Husted would look good in an SS uniform. The man is part of the Fascist Conservative movement in this country.

    President Obama placed his vote on an Electronic Voting Machine from this company:

    And I think even he joked that he had no clue, and no proof, of who he voted for.

    Plus, Mitt's son, Tagg, is invested in an EVM company that's going to be used in Ohio - Husted's state.


    How is THIS issue NOT RESOLVED!!!

  • bigtuna on October 30, 2012 12:48 PM:

    There are a number of things going on in the last week that from an end game geeky perspective that I do not get. Let's for the moment not try to figure out what the storm will do, which is an unknown, but impacts mostly safe Dem states. Yesterday, Romney was in WI, where damn near all the polls show BHO ahead by 3-5 %, Nate Silver and the Princeton consortium weighs as very likely going to Obama, AND an openly gay woman is likely to become senator. Why go to WI 7 days before election? Why send Ann Romney to western MI on the same day?

    THEN Romney goes to a SOD FARM in Iowa - which the polls show he is closer in, so that made sense. But, a guy wanting to be president of the US has to do an event at a sod farm 7 days before the election????

    Last week, down by 3 in the polls, Romney goes to NV? For 5 EVs???

    Recent polls show Obama maybe a bit ahead in VA; OH is leaning, etc. Yet the nationwide polls show a near tie in the likely voter outcome.

    Again, looking at the pre-storm scheduling, the Romney campaign looks to be doing some truly odd things - going places that sure look like losers, and spending time in low EV states. And now, running patently false ads about the bailout in OH, which may trun a few votes, but also reminds voters about the bailout, AND has elicited a response from the Chrysler Corp. about the outright lie. It strikes me as dumb move as a republican to run an ad that corporate Italy/America needs to correct.

    I am sure to be missing something. But shouldn't Romney have been in Ohio and VA, plus maybe IA? If Obama holds OH, Romney has to win VA, IA, NV, and CO, to have a Tie in the EV. From a resource allocation persective, WI and MI are a waste of time and money, and Romney needs to try to win VA AND OH to have a chance.

  • Peter C on October 30, 2012 1:02 PM:

    It is not only Husted who needs to be watched, but specific southern Ohio counties (Clinton, Butler, Warren and Clermont). All four are heavily Republican counties which had anomalous results in 2004. When Warren county compiled its results, it expelled journalists because there was a 'terrorism alert' that they said was 'a 10 out of 10 on the terrorism scale'. Curiously, no intelligence agencies (niether CIA, FBI or Homeland Security) knew anything about it.

    In 2004, Ohio passed an anti-gay-marriage amendment by a huge margin (62% to 38%, a 1,263,873 vote margin). Bush won by a much smaller margin (51% to 49%, a 118,599 vote margin). The anti-gay marriage amendment passed in all but one super-blue county (Athens County - home of Ohio University). So, across the whole state, the anti-gay amendment outperformed Bush rather significantly; Kerry voters crossed over and voted against homosexual rights. But in 4 counties (Clinton, Butler, Warren, and Clermont), Bush got MORE votes than the amendment. All 4 counties are suburbs of Cincinnati, which is known for its homophobia.

  • John Sully on October 30, 2012 1:40 PM:

    In a similar vein, the NYT has a good piece of voter suppression efforts today:


  • CincyBlog on October 30, 2012 1:49 PM:

    Cincinnati gets enough bashing from those exurban Conservative counties mentioned. We don't need more false accusations leveled at us from people who know nothing about this City.

  • bushworstpresidentever on October 30, 2012 2:08 PM:

    Bottom line is, Obama needs to get to 270 without Ohio. Unless his vote total in Ohio is so overwhelming that any post election shenanigans by Husted over absentee and provisional ballets (which will take weeks to look at), will be irrelevant. Otherwise, post-election Ohio litigation will make Bush v Gore look like a children's party.

  • boatboy_srq on October 30, 2012 3:09 PM:

    @ARK3000: I read that as "cut from the same dolt of cloth" the first time - and I'm not sure it isn't equally appropriate.


    John Husted. One more reason downballot contests matter at least as much as the one for POTUS.

  • Peter C on October 30, 2012 3:32 PM:

    I apologize, @CincyBlog, I should have said something like, "All 4 counties are exurbs of Cincinnati, which was known for its homophobia." I have no current information to tar Cincinnati as homophobic. I grew up in Cleveland in the 1960 - 1980 timeframe and then lived in Michigan for 20 years. During that time, Cincinnati certainly had a reputation as a militantly culturally conservative place, as the Mapplethorpe Exhibit contravercy displayed. I have no reason to expect vote-tampering in the city oc Cincinnati (which is in Hamilton County). But the culture warriers in the 4 counties I mentioned are so very hyper-partisan, that I have a hard time explaining how Bush would out-perform an anti-gay-marriage amendment in ONLY those 4 counties. In my mind, it is much easier to reconcile the idea that super-partisan elections officials jiggered the presidential results without remembering to adjust the down-ticket ballot initiative.

    Sadly, I don't expect we'll ever uncover the truth. The Green and Libertarian candidates challenged the results and the Courts ordered all records retained for the trial. Frustratingly, the case had to be dismissed when those records were 'accidentally' destroyed.

    Still, please don't expect me to ever trust a process with unaudited and record-less electronic machines administered by blatantly partisan officials who, in the past, concocted fictitious terror alerts to avoid press scrutiny, and subsequently destroyed evidence.

  • Neildsmith on October 31, 2012 5:43 AM:

    The next step is to ignore the federal court rulings altogether. It's a 21st century version of nullification.

  • bfineprint on November 01, 2012 12:04 AM:

    What you have to be worried about is the hacking of the voting machines that are provided in the Cincinnati area by EVM, with Romney interests involved with the company. How do you overcome a change in voting totals without knowing everyone's individual vote? You would have to have a computer whiz who could show that the numbers were changed and that may be very difficult to prove. As someone else has said, Obama would need to win these other states and not need Ohio. Since Republicans are in charge of many of these swing states, there could be multiple problems with machines.