Democratic State Senator Charges Racism at Play in Ohio Early Voting Decision; MSNBC's Lui Fails to Challenge Her

All this week during the 11 a.m. Eastern MSNBC Live program, "we're going to look at the ballot battles that could decide the race for the White House," MSNBC's Richard Lui noted today as he set up a segment with two liberal opponents of voter ID laws -- "wired into the concerns of minority voters" -- Ohio State Senator Nina Turner (D) and Common Cause staff counsel Stephen Spaulding.

Although Lui briefly quoted from two officials for True the Vote, a conservative anti-voter fraud group that supports voter ID laws, he failed to bring on any representatives of the group, even though Turner was there to rail against what she sees as the racist motives behind the Ohio Secretary of State's move to cut back on in-person voting hours.

Secretary Jon Husted's decision was a mere "guise" for "out-and-out voter suppression," Turner complained, dismissing that notion that there are legitimate, budget-savings reasons to cut back on early voting hours.

"Now that we have our first African-American president, all of a sudden, across this country, and particularly here in the state of Ohio, all of a sudden they want to protect the vote," Turner groused, adding that in her county, Cuyahoga, "56 percent of African-American voters... voted early, in-person."

Racism is a pretty strong charge to level politically, but Lui failed to press Turner to back up her claims, nor did he cite any evidence that would argue against her charges. Far from being something pursued only since President Obama took office, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) notes that "[t]wenty-four states have passed major legislation [on voter ID] during the period 2003-2012 (not including gubernatorial vetoes in five states in 2011)," of those, 10 laws either instituting or strengthening voter ID requirements were passed in states prior to President Obama's inauguration.

What's more, Ohio's voter ID law does not require photo identification. If the voter lacks a state or military-issued photo ID, a voter need only present one of the following:

  • An original or copy of a current utility bill; or
  • An original or copy of a current bank statement; or
  • An original or copy of a current government check; or
  • An original or copy of a current paycheck; or
  • An original or copy of a current other government document, other than a voter registration acknowledgement notification mailed by the board of elections, that shows the voter’s name and current address.

Another fact completely omitted by Lui is that, in Ohio, ANY voter can opt to vote via absentee ballot without needing to cite a reason to do so. Many states still require absentee voters to swear they will be out of town on election day or too ill to personally present themselves at their polling place. In-person early voting may be curtailed slightly from 2008, but Buckeye State voters still have amply opportunity to vote early via absentee ballot.

Lui also sought reaction from Turner to a quote by an African-American representative of the conservative group True the Vote. The state senator obliged Lui by dismissing Anita Moncrief as a "delusional" pawn of a group dedicated to "voter suppression":

I don't care if the face is black, white, or Latino, anyone who stands up to say it is OK to suppress the vote across this country, they are absolutely wrong, and we are going to continue to fight this voter suppression wherever it rears its ugly head.

Following this tirade, Lui turned to Common Cause's Spaulding for his thoughts on True the Vote, noting that many "critics" have said it will "intimidate people at the polling places."

Spaulding worked in his talking point that voter ID and curtailed early voting were really about "politicians manipulating the process" so that "eligible Americans can't cast that basic, fundamental right."

Campaigns & Elections 2012 Presidential Race Issues Racism Ohio Government & Press Nina Turner Stephen Spaulding Richard Lui