In a statement on Aug. 22, Secretary of State Jon Husted said of early voting, “The rules are set and are not going to change.” Husted made the comment in an attempt to end discussion over in-person early voting hours.
Unfortunately for Husted, a federal judge disagrees. In a ruling today, Judge Peter Economus said in-person early voting must be restored for all registered voters to include the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day. Husted will now work with county boards of elections around the state to decide the voting hours for those days.
The ruling is the outcome of President Barack Obama’s campaign and the Ohio Democratic Party suing Husted to extend in-person early voting. Before the ruling, only military personnel and their families were allowed to vote, which the Obama team and Democrats argued was unfair to non-military voters. With the ruling, everyone — including military personnel and their families — will be able to vote during the three days before election day.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has vowed to appeal the ruling, but, for now, the news comes as a victory to Obama and Democrats in the ongoing struggle over early voting hours.
Recently, Republicans have tried to block any statewide expansion of in-person early voting, citing costs and racial politics. Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party and close adviser to Gov. John Kasich, previously wrote to The Columbus Dispatch in an email, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”
Republicans defended Preisse’s racially insensitive comment by calling it “background” and saying it was supposed to be off the record. But those defenses didn’t match Preisse’s defense of his own comment, and they didn’t deny the substance of the comment. CityBeat covered the racial politics behind early voting in this week’s issue (“Republicans Admit Racial Politics,” issue of Aug. 29).
Mike Wilson, the Republican candidate for state representative in Ohio’s 28th district, also voiced some concerns about the lawsuit. He said extending in-person early voting for everyone could make lines too long for military personnel and their families.