Judge Considers Early Voting Rules for Ohio

Aug 15, 2012

The fight over whether all Ohioans should have the opportunity to vote in person at boards of elections the weekend before Election Day has had its day in court. Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports there isn’t a quick and easy answer to that question.  

In 2008, 93 thousand Ohioans voted in person at boards of elections on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before the election.  But this year, that won’t be an option…..unless a court rules otherwise.  President Obama’s campaign, along with state and national democratic parties, is suing to have the 3 day window restored after it was wiped out in a new law by the Republican led Ohio legislature.  only active duty military members and people living overseas are now allowed by the new law to vote on those three days.  And Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern says that’s not right.

Redfern: There was an intent by the Republicans in the legislature to carve out and limit voters in those final three days.  We would like every voter to have the chance to access the polls.  It’s as simple as that.

Redfern fears that without this window, some Ohio voters who have trouble making it to the polls during regular business hours, will find themselves disenfranchised….just like some did in 2004.

Redfern: We estimate, based on voter behavior and information we collected after the 2004 cycle that 15,000 Franklin County voters left the line and didn’t vote on election day 2004 because the lines were so long.

But Republicans argue voters still have opportunities to vote that didn’t exist in 2004.  Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted says there’s no reason to have that three day window.

Husted:  It is easy to vote in Ohio, every single voter will have the opportunity to vote from the comfort of their own homes.  We have expansive voting hours.  Border states like Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania don’t have early voting at all and we have a standard for our military voters to make it easy and convenient for them to vote and that should not be infringed upon.

When asked why active duty military voters should be given the opportunity to vote in that three day period when ordinary Ohioans cannot, Husted says it’s federal law.

Husted: Federal law requires us to treat military voters differently.  As a matter of fact, it says we have to allow them to receive their ballots 45 days in advance, that they can receive those ballots electronically, that they don’t need a postmark to return their ballots by mail.  There are all kinds of exceptions that we make and should make for military voters that we would like to keep in place.

But Paul Worley, a veteran from Peebles who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, would not be able to take advantage of the three day window because he is not active duty military.  He is siding with the Democrats in this fight. 

Worley:  I would love a lot more decision makers, lawyers, and people to understand that we ought to make voting so much easier for people.  We ought to be doing anything and everything we can to get them to the polls to exercise their right to vote because that’s our most precious freedom.  And I fought for it and I would die for it still.

The federal judge who heard this case says he needs to take more time to consider it before ruling.