Our VoiceCulture

Ken Blackwell, ex-secretary of state behind Ohio election irregularities, tapped to lead voter suppression campaign

Imagine 2050 Staff • May 19, 2014

A May 14 Wall Street Journal article, “New Front Opens in Voter-Law Battles” revealed that former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell is preparing to announce he will serve as chairman of the SOS for SoS PAC. The PAC — which was created in January for the sole purpose of promoting and establishing voter suppression measures in states — seeks to raise millions of dollars to support the campaigns of incumbent secretaries of state and new candidates in eight states.

The position of state secretary of state usually entails overseeing the general operation of elections. Emboldened by recent court decisions, the far-Right has made strides in working with secretaries of state to implement barriers to the voting process that disproportionately affect communities of color.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach recent efforts to increase the presence of these measures best exemplify what SOS and the candidates it supports aim to achieve. However, when one reviews Ken Blackwell’s previous work overseeing elections in Ohio it becomes plainly obvious why he would become SOS’ chairman.

‘Massive,’ ‘intentional’ election irregularities

After the 2004 presidential election, House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) ordered a review of election proceedings in Ohio. The resulting report authored by Rep. Conyers and Democratic staff, “Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio,” found “massive and unprecedented voter irregularities and anomalies in Ohio” before, during, and after the election. Much of these irregularities, the report claims, “were caused by intentional misconduct and illegal behavior, much of it involving Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.”

Here are five of that report’s findings that evidence Blackwell’s voter suppression credentials and why it makes so much sense for him to run one of the main PACs supporting voter suppression measures in the country (emphasis added):

  • “Mr. Blackwell’s widely reviled decision to reject voter registration applications based on paper weight may have resulted in thousands of new voters not being registered in time for the 2004 election.”
  • “Mr. Blackwell’s decision to prevent voters who requested absentee ballots but did not receive them on a timely basis from being able to receive provisional ballots likely disenfranchised thousands, if not tens of thousands, of voters, particularly seniors. A federal court found Mr. Blackwell’s order to be illegal and in violation of [2002’s Help America Vote Act].”
  • “There were widespread instances of intimidation and misinformation in violation of the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1968, Equal Protection, Due Process and the Ohio right to vote. Mr. Blackwell’s apparent failure to institute a single investigation into these many serious allegations represents a violation of his statutory duty under Ohio law to investigate election irregularities.”
  • “Mr. Blackwell’s failure to articulate clear and consistent standards for the counting of provisional ballots resulted in the loss of thousands of predominantly minority votes. In Cuyahoga County alone, the lack of guidance and the ultimate narrow and arbitrary review standards significantly contributed to the fact that 8,099 out of 24,472 provisional ballots were ruled invalid, the highest proportion in the state.”
  • “Mr. Blackwell’s failure to issue specific standards for the recount contributed to a lack of uniformity in violation of both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clauses. We found innumerable irregularities in the recount in violation of Ohio law.”

There are very few people in contemporary politics with a more bountiful record of voter suppression and disenfranchisement than Ken Blackwell. To advance SOS and this movement’s specific goals of restricting citizens’ ability to vote, very few are more qualified.


Image source: Gage Skidmore

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