CLEVELAND - Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, with over 100 other public officials and supporters representing a broad array of constituencies, rallied Tuesday in front of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in a show of determination to overcome Republican efforts to stop Ohioans from voting in the presidential election.
It was National Voter Registration Day. Representatives of clergy, labor, youth, Latinos, Muslims, Sikhs, Asian-Americans and the Democratic Party heard rap, sang "America The Beautiful" and voiced outrage at GOP legislators and Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted for a protracted effort to throw up obstacles to ballot access for ordinary people.
"We now have less voting opportunity than in 2008," said state Sen. Nina Turner. Under cover of establishing "voter uniformity," she said, Husted reduced hours and banned weekend in-person voting in the early voting period beginning Oct. 2.
"Less is not more," she said. "Vote suppression is vote suppression."
Late last month federal judge Peter Economus overruled Husted's order to ban early voting the last three days before Nov. 6, the busiest period for early voting in 2008. But GOP Attorney General Mike DeWine has appealed on grounds of "state's rights."
This was the argument of notorious Southern officials to defend racial segregation and is "a deep source of embarrassment," Turner said.
"The dirty, rotten tricks department of the Republican Party doesn't matter," she declared. "We are going to vote."
"These chumps have no idea what they did when got us all fired up," said Khalid Samad, head of Peace in the Hood and a leader of the Muslim community. "They try to stop weekend voting but we're bringing Muslims Friday, Jews Saturday and churches on Sunday."
Rev. Otis Moss Jr. denounced the "audacity and evil schemes" of those trying to tell people to stay away from the polls. "We spent life, limb and blood to get to the polls," he said, charging that "the forces against us have lost faith in democracy" and if they win this election "we will pay the price for the next 50 years."
Rep. Fudge concurred, commenting that, while posing as Christians, the vote suppressors "are Satan."
State Rep. and House Minority Leader Armond Budish said Husted had become the "Secretary of Suppression. He's doing everything to keep Democrats from voting. But they can't take our energy and resolution. We're going to vote. We've got to overcome what the Republicans are trying to do."
"We're not going to wait til Nov. 6," said Rev. Roddy Thomas of United Clergy of Greater Cleveland. "We are going to vote starting Tuesday and the entire month of October." The pastors have appointed "vote captains" in each church to register voters, verify their names are in the books and organize early voting, he said.
"This election is possibly the last gasp of reactionary forces to impose their backward vision on America," said Stu Garson, chairman of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. "No matter how they dress this pig up, we know what it is and we won't let these cynical forces keep us from voting."
Photo: At Tuesday's rally at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, Cleveland, Sept. 25., Rep. Marcia Fudge is at the microphone. Rick Nagin/PW