Former Ohio SOS Blackwell Asked to Testify on Voter Suppression

OhioNews Bureau

ONB COLUMBUS: Former two-term Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth J. Blackwell, who made headlines in 2004 for serving as state co-chair of the Bush/Cheney campaign and who many defenders of democracy and voting activists believe was complicit in throwing Ohio to President Bush, was sent a letter Tuesday asking him to appear before the US House Committee on Judiciary to provide testimony on “Voter Suppression.”

Signed by committee chairman John Conyers, Jr. of Michigan and his New York co-chair, Jerrold Nadler, the letter notified Blackwell that the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is planning to hold hearing on February 8th in the Rayburn House Office Building and that they would like to have him testify as part of the committee’s exploration of the “current state of voting rights and the allocation of resources to end voter suppression.

The letter is just that, an invitation to testify. It’s not a subpoena. Although it would be bad form not to show up. Committee members and other observers would be left wondering why Mr. Blackwell, who implemented the Help America Vote Act in Ohio and who called voting in Ohio in 2004 the “gold standard” despite cries of foul that came from Democrats and Independents alike who said he tilted the playing field to benefit President Bush, would duck the invitation.

But even though its just an invitation to share his thoughts with committee members, it could turn into a subpoena if he stiff arms the request and is a no-show.

According to a Conyers' spokesman, Blackwell has not responded yet. But the man from Cincinnati who served as Ohio Treasurer and Secretary of State could run the risk of be served a subpoenaed if he doesn't appear voluntarily. Issuing a subpoena requires a vote of committee members.

Ohio, with its 20 Electoral Votes, put President Bush over the top by fewer than 118,000 votes. Otherwise, without the help some say could only come from a Secretary of State like Blackwell, President John Kerry would be running for a second term in November.

John Michael Spinelli is a former Ohio Statehouse government and political reporter and business columnist. He now serves as the OhioNews Bureau Chief for ePluribus Media Journal. Find ONB archives here.

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