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Published: Friday, 8/17/2012

Local Democrats slam Husted's voting edict

Ohio secretary defends uniform hours, vows every voter to receive absentee ballot

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
State Sen. Edna brown (D., Toledo) notes the directive on voting hours by Secretary of State Jon Husted ends weekend voting. State Sen. Edna brown (D., Toledo) notes the directive on voting hours by Secretary of State Jon Husted ends weekend voting.
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A Democratic state senator from Toledo led a lambasting Thursday of Secretary of State Jon Husted's decision to put all 88 Ohio counties on the same early-voting election schedule -- cutting the hours people may vote compared with four years ago.

State Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo) criticized Mr. Husted's directive, which among other things, eliminates early voting on weekends.

"We had somewhat of a victory [Wednesday] and I thank Secretary of State Husted for providing uniform concern in early voting across the state," Ms. Brown said.

"I don't believe we have ever had uniformity across the state when it comes to early voting. … However, compared to 2008, early-voting hours, as well as the number of days, particularly the weekends, have been reduced," she said.

She said that is unacceptable and that it could lead to longer lines on Election Day.

Under Mr. Husted's directive, boards of elections must be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday during the first three weeks of this period, Oct. 2 through Oct. 19, and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday during the last two weeks, Oct. 22 through Nov. 2.

Pete Gerken, president of the Lucas County commissioners, spoke harshly of Mr. Husted's decision.

"This is not acceptable. We know what really is going on here," Mr. Gerken said. "The opponents of President Obama will outspend us. They can outspend us."

"They can't outwork us, and they can't limit our access to that privilege, that right to vote," he said.

He said in 2008, more than 4,700 people voted on the Saturdays and Sundays leading up to the election at the early-vote center.

"I am not satisfied with the secretary of state's half-measure, and at best it is a half-measure," he said. "Apparently he doesn't know how working families operate Monday through Friday."

Mr. Gerken said Republicans didn't like the results in 2008, and want to limit early voting because it is used by Democrats in greater numbers than Republicans.

Also present at the lobby of One Government Center were commissioners Tina Skeldon Wozniak and Carol Contrada; state Rep. Matt Szollosi of Oregon, the No. 2 Democrat in the Ohio House; Ron Rothenbuhler, the Lucas County Democratic Party chairman and an elections board member, and Toledo Board of Education member Brenda Hill.

The 21 other Ohio counties that had been able to reach agreement on expanded weekday and weekend hours will now have to align their hours to match Mr. Husted's directive.

"It is easy to vote in Ohio," Mr. Husted said. "You can start voting 35 days in advance by absentee ballot or in person. "

"Every single voter will receive an absentee ballot request, and if they fill that out and turn it in, they will have more than 750 hours to vote without ever leaving their home," Mr. Husted said.

Under Ohio law, voters may begin mailing in absentee ballots for the Nov. 6 election or casting them in person at designated sites beginning Oct. 2.

The exceptions would be Oct. 8, when offices will be closed for Columbus Day; Oct. 9, when elections boards must already remain open until 9 p.m. for the voter registration deadline, and Nov. 2, when offices must remain open until 6 p.m., the time under Ohio law when in-person early voting closes for all but military personnel and their families.

These hours generally are longer than the 8:30 a.m.-to-4 p.m. regular business hours Monday through Friday that were in place in Lucas County when Mr. Husted last week broke a 2-2 partisan deadlock by the board of elections.

Jon Stainbrook, Lucas County Republican Party chairman and elections board member, dismissed the Democrats' claims.

"They want everything and the kitchen sink -- they want weekends, evenings," Mr. Stainbrook said.

Mr. Husted has agreed to mass-mail applications for absentee ballots to all Ohio registered voters, his initial compromise in addressing what he said were inequities with such mailings only in counties that could afford it.

Mr. Stainbrook said the mailing will make it easier for people to cast ballots from their homes.

"Jon Husted compromised and even gave more time to vote," he said.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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