Judge Orders Changes In Early Voting

Sep 5, 2014

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted
Credit State of Ohio

Republican Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted wants the state to appeal a federal district judge's order blocking an Ohio law that trims early voting hours.

The judge ordered Husted to set an expanded voting schedule and barred Husted from preventing county boards of election from adopting additional early voting hours beyond his order.  The ruling is in response to a lawsuit filed by civil rights groups and others challenging two early-voting measures, claiming the rules hurt minority and low-income voters. One is a directive restricting weekend and evening hours. Another is a law that eliminates the weekend when people may register and cast ballots. Husted says the ruling could lead to different rules in all counties. The ruling means early voting opportunities in place in 2012 will likely be back for the fall elections. Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles reports.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is pleased with a ruling by a federal court judge to require Ohio to return to more flexible voting hours before this November’s election.  The A C L U’s Mike Brickner says this Federal Judge’s ruling will do several things.
“Golden week, which is the overlap between the end of voter registration and the beginning of early voting is now restored so we will have the full 35 days of early voting that many Ohioans have been used to for nearly a decade.  He also ordered the Secretary of State to set Sunday voting hours on October 26th so we will have two full Sundays of early voting for the 2014 election.  And he also ordered the Secretary of State to set hours for evenings on the two weeks before the election during the early voting period.”
Peg Rosenfield with the Ohio League of Women Voters says this change will help make sure all Ohioans who are eligible to vote get to do so.
“It really means it will be much easier for people who work, people who have child care problems and responsibilities.  It will make it so much easier for people to be able to vote this fall and we hope in future elections.  Eligible voters should have as many opportunities as possible to get to the polls and be able to vote in person.  It’s wonderful news.”
But it’s not wonderful news to Republican House Speaker Bill Batchelder, since the judge also told the legislature it needs to put these hours into law for the future.
“All of a sudden, it’s our problem? (chuckle).  I think he made the problem and that’s too bad but obviously we may or may not be able to get into the court of appeals. Apparently the judges make the law now with regard to these issues and that’s probably not a very good solution.”  
Republican Representative Matt Huffman is more defiant about the judges suggestion to the legislature.
“The Ohio legislature doesn’t take marching orders from a federal judge.”  
Huffman says even before this judge’s ruling, Ohio had a variety of voting options that other states lack.  
“You’ve all seen and probably reprinted in your various publications the New York Times editorials about what Ohio is doing with its voting and of course, New York has no early voting.  And of course, they are not critical of that because the party they want to win always wins the elections.”  
Republican lawmakers pushed through these restrictions on early voting have insisted they are not trying to get an upper hand in doing so.  But some of the early voting options, like the Sundays before the election, for example, are thought to benefit Democrats.  In the last few big elections, African American churches in big cities have transported members to the polls on buses to the polls to vote on Sundays. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted says the state must appeal this ruling, which he says is inconsistent, and that Ohio can’t simultaneously treat people both the same way and differently. And that means there’s potential uncertainty as early voting is set to start in a few weeks.