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Published: Thursday, 6/12/2014 - Updated: 3 months ago

POLITICS

Ohio must expand its voting hours

Judge orders polls open 3 days before election

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
Ohio Secretary of State John Husted Ohio Secretary of State John Husted
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COLUMBUS — A federal judge on Wednesday struck down an Ohio law prohibiting in-person early voting on the three days immediately preceding an election, making permanent a temporary order he issued for the 2012 presidential election.

Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted said he will comply.

The order by U.S. District Court Judge Peter C. Economus prohibits Mr. Husted from enforcing a law that closed the doors to in-person early voting at 6 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day. The court had determined that the law unconstitutionally treats military voters, who could vote on these days, differently from all other voters.

The judge left it to Mr. Husted, however, to set new uniform statewide hours for these three days. A directive issued by Mr. Husted in April for the Nov. 4 election would have ended such voting at noon on Saturday, Nov. 1.

“When it comes to voting days and hours, I have urged uniformity, bipartisanship, and certainty so that all Ohioans can know the rules for voting well in advance of the election,” Mr. Husted said. “Absent legislative action to set hours, I had adopted by directive the only bipartisan schedule that has been offered. Now that the court has ruled, I will follow the decision.”

The judge’s original decision in 2012 came as a result of a lawsuit filed by President Obama’s re-election campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and the Ohio Democratic Party.

“The loss of the three final days of early voting for [nonmilitary] voters goes to the heart of [the law’s] constitutional deficiencies as determined by the court in 2012 and today,” Judge Economus wrote. “The Ohio Revised Code still contains differing and inconsistent in-person early voting deadlines for [military and other] voters.”

The General Assembly more recently passed a law shortening the window for mail and in-person voting from 35 days to 29 days before an election. That law, also being challenged in court, did not set a specific schedule for voting within that window.

“It is unfortunate that we must continuously rely on federal courts to protect Ohioans’ ballot access instead of the elected officials who have been charged with that responsibility,” said state Sen. Nina Turner (D., Cleveland), Mr. Husted’s Democratic opponent in November.

“I call on Secretary Husted to immediately comply not only with the judge’s decision, but the spirit of this order, and implement robust voting hours on these days that work for all Ohioans,” she said.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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