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Published: Wednesday, 10/10/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

State to appeal U.S. ruling allowing balloting on last 3 days before Nov. 6 election

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS — Ohio will again appeal a federal court ruling that allows in-person early voting on the final three days immediately preceding the Nov. 6 election.

Whatever the U.S. Supreme Court decides, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted promised that voters will be treated the same in all 88 counties during those three days.

The Republican secretary of state will ask the nation’s high court to hear an appeal of last week’s federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, which he called an “unprecedented intrusion” into states’ ability to run their own elections.

A three-judge panel of the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit ruled in a case brought by President Obama’s re-election campaign and fellow Democrats that Ohio cannot prohibit in-person early voting during the Saturday, Sunday, and Monday immediately preceding the election while expressly allowing military personnel and their families to do so.

The court said that the state failed to show that allowing early in-person voting on those three days would create a hardship on boards of elections, particularly since they were able to deal with such voting during the 2008 presidential election.

By striking down the law prohibiting such voting, the appeals court returned the situation back to prior law in which county boards of elections set their own early voting hours.

But Mr. Husted made it clear that whatever the outcome of the requested appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court, voting in all 88 counties will be uniform.

Mr. Husted said the court’s decision that voters should be treated the same while reverting back to a law that could allow 88 different sets of early voting hours makes no sense.

“As a swing state, we in Ohio expect to be held to a high standard and level of scrutiny when it comes to elections,” he said. “However, it is troubling that the federal courts have failed to recognize that there isn’t another state in the union which can claim Ohio’s broad menu of voting options and opportunity to vote.

“All voters already have at least 230 hours available to them to vote in person prior to Election Day,” Mr. Husted said. “All registered voters received an application to vote by mail, and all voters still have the ability to vote during the 13-hour window on Election Day itself.”

The Obama campaign released a statement from General Counsel Bob Bauer in response to Mr. Husted’s action.

“There is no justification for the state’s arbitrary actions this year in trying to deny the vast majority of its voters access to open polling places for the last three days before the election. This has been the unanimous conclusion of the courts that have considered this case,” it said.

“The Secretary of State has now chosen to extend the litigation and to ask the United States Supreme Court to intervene just four weeks before the election. We have no reason to believe that he will meet with any more success now than before.”

Early voting by mail or in person began on Oct. 2. Tuesday marked the last day to register for the Nov. 6 election.

The federal case deals only with the final weekend before the election and has no effect on weekend voting during the rest of the early voting period. Mr. Husted still has in place a directive setting expanded uniform hours across the state for boards of elections of their designated early voting stations to remain open on weekdays. It does not contain any weekend hours.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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