COLUMBUS — An uphill climb to put a voters’ bill of rights before Ohio voters this November ultimately proved too steep, as backers said Tuesday they’ve set their sights on 2015.
Meanwhile, the NAACP, League of Women Voters of Ohio, American Civil Liberties Union, and several African-American pastors who sued the state in May over early voting urged the federal judge this week to grant an immediate injunction to expand voting hours beyond what the same judge did three weeks ago.
The voter bill of rights constitutional amendment is one of several proposed ballot issues in the field that are not expected to meet Wednesday’s deadline to file petitions.
An attempt to overturn the 2004 ban on same-sex marriage has shifted its goal to 2015 or 2016. Various marijuana proposals lack momentum. There’s little indication petitions will be filed for a proposal to block workplace labor unions from collecting fair-share fees in lieu of dues from non-members.
The Ohio Voter Bill of Rights group knew time was short to gather the roughly 385,000 valid signatures of registered voters needed to submit the question to the secretary of state. Far more than that are usually needed to compensate for signatures likely to be disqualified under scrutiny by county boards of election.
The effort’s leader, state Rep. Alicia Reece (D., Cincinnati), said supporters have gathered only about 100,000 signatures with “a shoestring budget and a lot of faith.”
“One of the things that makes us unique right now in this war on voting rights around the country is that we’re the only state right now … where the everyday citizen has an opportunity to have a voice on this,” she said.
Among other things, the amendment would permanently etch a minimum number of early voting hours into the Ohio Constitution, allow online registration, and broaden the menu of forms of identification voters may show at polls.
U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus decided June 11 to make permanent his temporary order restoring in-person early voting during the three days immediately preceding the 2012 presidential election. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted complied with the new order, but his directive for the Nov. 4 election added no Sunday hours and just one Saturday beyond that last weekend and provided for no evening hours.
The lawsuit challenges a law passed earlier this year that shortened Ohio’s absentee and in-person early voting period from 35 to 29 days, getting rid of the so-called Golden Week during which would-be voters could register and immediately cast an absentee ballot.
“For the thousands of Ohioans who have relied upon weekday evening voting in the past, maintaining weekday evening hours will not only prevent disenfranchisement of these voters, but will also prevent confusion among those who have relied on these hours in past elections,” the motion for a preliminary injunction reads.
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