Back to Ohio, again

Is Ken Blackwell trying to suppress the registration of African-Americans and low-income voters?

Published June 6, 2006 1:54PM (EDT)

As Farhad Manjoo and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., debate whether the Republicans stole Ohio in 2004, activists and voters in the Buckeye State are asking new questions about the fire next time.

As the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports, the new concerns center around rules Secretary of State and GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell has set for the people who register Ohioans to vote. At a hearing Monday, lawyers for the Ohio Democratic Party, Common Cause and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now argued that training documents prepared by Blackwell's staff are so vague that people trying to register new voters may believe that they'll be subject to arrest on felony charges if they make even inadvertent errors in the process.

Blackwell's critics say that he's trying to suppress the registration of black and low-income voters by scaring off those who would register them. "It appears that Ken Blackwell finally figured out how to deal with long lines on Election Day," Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Brian Rothenberg tells the Plain Dealer. "He's just trying to outright deny people the right to vote now."

A spokesman for Blackwell insists that the secretary/candidate -- an African-American himself -- is "making a very focused effort to gain the votes of Ohio's urban voters, but particularly Ohio's African-American voters, and that's because Ken Blackwell is the only candidate in this race that can articulate their concerns." As for Blackwell's challenger, Rep. Ted Strickland? Blackwell's spokesman says he's so out of touch with African-American voters that "before this campaign, his idea of diversity was opting for Neapolitan ice cream at the congressional buffet."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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