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Published: Wednesday, 10/10/2012

Husted to decide last 3 days’ early-vote hours in Lucas County

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

As it had on numerous previous matters, the Lucas County Board of Elections deadlocked Tuesday on setting tentative early voting hours for the final three days before the Nov. 6 election.

Resolutions on determining a potential schedule for the disputed early voting days ended in four tie votes — split along party lines by the four-member board — which placed any decision on the issue in the hands of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

Earlier Tuesday, Mr. Husted appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court a federal appeals court decision reinstating early voting on the last three days before the Nov. 6 election.

The appeals court's action overruled an Ohio law enacted this year that cut off early voting on the Friday before a Tuesday election, except for military personnel and Ohio voters living overseas.

The Obama campaign and Democratic party officials sued to overturn that law. A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in August that declared the early-voting deadline change unconstitutional, and last week the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling against a state appeal.

The elections board's deliberations Tuesday were intended to set early-voting hours for the contested period, but the board failed to reach a consensus.

The board voted first on a motion from newly appointed Democratic member John Irish that would have the Early Vote Center, 1500 N. Superior St., open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 3 and 4 — the weekend before the election — and 8 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 5.

Mr. Irish, attending his first meeting as an elections board member, and fellow Democrat and board Chairman Ron Rothenbuhler, approved the proposal while Republican board members Tony DeGidio and Jon Stainbrook voted no.

Mr. Irish initially moved to have Nov. 5 early voting end at 7 p.m., but adjusted the time to conform with the board’s normal business hours for that day.

Mr. Stainbrook offered a schedule in three separate motions, one for each of the final voting days. He suggested having the center open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 3, closed Nov. 4, and open from 8 a.m. to noon Nov. 5.

The board split again, with both Democrats voting no, which automatically sent the matter to the secretary of state.

Mr. Irish argued during the meeting that the schedule supported by the Republicans was inconsistent and could be confusing.

“I thing we have all these issues about the early voter center and lawsuits. I think it is confusing to people. I am looking for consistency,” he said. “Why we are going from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.? I don’t know why.”

Mr. Stainbrook said he attempted to work out a compromise with the Democratic chairman. He said he was following the opinion of the appellate court panel.

“The ruling is very confusing. It says that it is suppose to allow the local boards to pick the hours. But it also said there has to be something uniform in all 88 counties,” he said. “You can't have both of those things.”



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