Fired Montgomery County Election Officials Sue Secretary of State
Two Montgomery County election workers fired by Secretary of State Jon Husted have filed a suit in federal court for wrongful termination, claiming their removal was arbitrary and in violation of the First Amendment. Husted, a Republican, dismissed Democrat elections officials Thomas Ritchie and Dennis Lieberman from their positions after warning he would do so when they violated his August 15 directive regarding early in-person voting hours.
In an August 28 letter notifying Ritchie and Lieberman of their dismissal, Husted wrote that they “knowingly and willfully violated Ohio election law by not following Directive 2012-35″ as required by Ohio Revised Code 3501.11.
“Board members are free to express their discontent with any Directive or Advisory issued, but they cannot disobey them. Your dismissal is not about differing views; it is about you violating the law,” Husted explained.
In August, Ritchie and Lieberman argued that their votes to extend weekend early-voting hours on the final weekend before November 6 stemmed from valid interpretations of Husteds directive setting uniform voting hours across Ohios 88 counties.
As reported by the Toledo Blade, Ritchie claimed that he and Lieberman interpreted Husted’s directive as a list of minimum hours. They continued to argue that Husted’s directive only set minimum hours even after the secretary of state’s office sent a letter asserting that the directive contained the “only days and hours” when early voting may be held.
Ritchie is the Director of Field Services & Organizing for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 8, one of Ohio’s largest public employee unions. Unions, the Ohio Democratic Party, and other left-wing groups accused Republicans of voter suppression at a protest outside a hearing on Husted’s removal of Ritchie and Lieberman from office.
Since being dismissed by Husted for disregarding the secretary of state’s early voting directive, Ritchie and Lieberman have been heavily promoted by the Ohio Democratic Party, appearing repeatedly on MSNBC to declare their victimhood.
Ritchie and Lieberman received standing ovations at the Democratic National Convention from more than two hundred attendees of an Ohio Democratic Party-sponsored breakfast.
“The secretary of suppression, Jon Husted, he and his cronies have got a plan,” Ritchie said in his September 3 speech at the Charlotte convention, “and that is to steal this election.”
In a separate interview, Ohio Democratic Party chairman Chris Redfern called Husted’s attempt to set uniform early voting hours “a coordinated effort by Republican leaders to disenfranchise voters.”
From the beginning of his term as Secretary of State, Husted has argued for consistent early voting hours statewide. Every registered voter in Ohio will be mailed an absentee ballot application, and the schedule determined by Husted’s early in-person voting directive allowed for weeks of early voting hours – including 11 days with after-hours early voting.
Under pressure from a Democratic judge ruling in favor of Obama for America and other Democrat groups, Husted rescinded his early in-person voting directive on Friday, September 7.