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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

More Strange Doings in Ohio

Before the Osama tape furor erupted, there was a surprising story out of Ohio, where Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell called a press conference to announce he was asking Republican Attorney General Jim Petro to ban election-day challenges of voter eligibility statewide. There was lots of nice talk from Blackwell about the “disruptive” nature of such challenges, and the possibility that they would make voting too slow and difficult.
Now there are three possible explanations for this development.
First, I may have been wrong in suggesting a Rove-driven, highly coordinated GOP effort to mess with minority voters next Tuesday. Maybe all the talk about voter challenges was a head fake, or perhaps just a way to build a legal and political foundation for post-election fraud claims.
Second, Blackwell could have decided to break ranks on this one, odd as that may seem for a guy who has been doing everything possible to give Bush an advantage in his state. It’s no secret Blackwell wants to run for governor in ’06, and he’s sufficiently quirky that he endorsed Steve Forbes for president back in 2000. There’s also the fact that Blackwell is African-American. It’s possible he actually had an attack of conscience about cooperating in tactics redolent of the Jim Crow era.
And third, this could all be a show. All Petro has to do is to deny Blackwell’s request, or say he doesn’t have the authority to ban challenges, and we’ll be back to square one, with Blackwell getting some positive press and a bit of protection from charges of partisanship that may emerge on or after November 2.
I guess you can tell I think this last explanation makes the most sense, but we’ll soon know.

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