As a federal judge in Ohio temporarily blocks the GOP from challenging the voting rights of 35,000 people ahead of the election, we go to Ohio to speak with State Sen. Teresa Fedor, one of the lawmakers leading the calls for Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell to resign. [includes rush transcript]
A federal judge in Ohio has temporarily blocked the Republican Party from challenging the voting rights of 35,000 people ahead of the election. Local election boards were preparing to hold hearings in the next few days to decide on the eligibility of the voters in question.
The Democratic Party hailed the decision. But Republican attorneys said the party will now be forced to challenge the voters on Election Day at the polls in order to prevent voting fraud.
Meanwhile, Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell has come under fire in recent weeks for his directives on provisional ballots in the state that many say would disenfranchise voters.
Several Ohio Democratic Senators are calling for the immediate resignation of Blackwell, stating in a letter addressed to him that he has been "unresponsive to the needs of Ohio’s voters" and has "failed to uphold [his] duties as chief elections officer."
- * Teresa Fedor*, Ohio state senator. She’s one of the state lawmakers leading the calls for Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell to resign.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined right now by Teresa Fedor, an Ohio state senator. She is one of the lawmakers who is currently calling for the Ohio Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, to resign. Welcome to Democracy Now!
TERESA FEDOR: Thank you, and good morning.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Well, from the national picture to what’s happening in Ohio, the whole issue of voting rights is clearly the top story. Can you talk about why you want Blackwell out?
TERESA FEDOR: Well, from the very beginning, it started about two years ago with Secretary of State Blackwell setting up obstacles for clean, fair elections in Ohio. It’s been clear from the very beginning that he is taking his direction from the time he was down in Florida, you know, helping the Republican Party in 2000, and he was one of their principle electoral system advisers. Then he also became part of their Bush spin-team, and went around with the rounds of cable national network television and radio broadcast tents and touted the Republican side. You know, I’ve have been paying attention to this from the very beginning. There have been clear signs along the way, from the electronic voting machines to the 11th hour directives that came down from his office that cause chaos and confusion to the boards of elections and to citizens. Also, with the spirit of HAVA, the provisional balloting issue, provisional balloting is used for the process of fail-safe voting. We come from the perspective that if you are an eligible voter, you have a right to cast a ballot and for that ballot to be counted. That’s what HAVA was all about. Those were the lessons that we learned in Florida.
JUAN GONZALEZ: In terms of the reaction of citizen groups there, because obviously Ohio has now become next to Florida, the sort of the ground zero for these questions in terms of voter suppression. In terms of the ability of these citizen groups to be able to raise these challenges, are you surprised by this L.A. Times report that’s come out that the Bush administration is taking the stand that only the Attorney General has right to challenge voter suppression and voting rights violations?
TERESA FEDOR: I’m not surprise at all, because if you think back in the election of 2000, who was the first group to lobby the legal battle? It was the Bush administration. And it doesn’t surprise me that they’re trying to lock in on the legal fight of this so that the citizens lose their rights. And it seems to me like we still have states rights here. I believe that the Attorney General has done a poor job of protecting people’s rights to vote. He’s more concerned about voter fraud than voter protection. And we are on the side of voter protection, especially those who have just registered, and in Ohio, we have registered 250 percent more than Republicans. And if you recall, there was a Republican Michigan legislator, John Papageorge, who admitted if we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we’re going to have a tough time in this election. So it’s clear. There’ve been signs along the way. We are here to protect the eligible voters. We will do everything in our power to have a smooth election. We are anticipating their tactics of voter suppression, and I think the American people need to wake up. I often, you know, wonder if we’re just frogs in the pot, and we absolutely need to pay attention now, not after. If there was anything that we learned with the Florida election, it was that we need to be absolutely prepared to have a smooth election, and to anticipate this. My thought is, why aren’t we prepared for 100% voter turnout in America?
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Ohio state senator, Teresa Fedor, calling on the Ohio Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, to resign. What do you see as the key issue now for voter access around Ohio? People are talking about it as a possible next Florida.
TERESA FEDOR: Well, they need to check to see whether or not they’re eligible to vote, and then try to figure out why they’re not eligible to vote, if they’re not on the voter polls. They also need to make sure that they’re going to the correct poll site, and there’s a way to do that. You can call the board of elections. You can check online and also go to the Democratic Party or Republican Party to help you through that process. I believe you need it take identification both driver’s license and a piece of mail that has your current address. And just be prepared. I think we should go, you know, earlier in the morning. If there are any problems and long line, you can prepare your day, you know, accordingly.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you a question about Diebold and electronic voting. Walden O’Dell comes from Ohio. He is the head of Diebold. He was the one who said, "We will try to deliver the vote to George Bush in this next election."
TERESA FEDOR: That letter came to me, and I sent it out from my office. I was very concerned from the very beginning, and I believe it’s a conflict of interest. We should have no voting machine companies or election companies directly involved with contributions to our elected officials. Number one. That is a number one problem in my mind. And I believe that he got caught in that net. We have a lot to do with election reform yet. We have a great deal of work that needs to be done, and you know, after this election, I’m hoping that we move forward with more election reform laws.