Voting Hours Dispute Moves To Ohio Legislature

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Inside view of Ohio Statehouse(Photo: Flickr.com)
Inside view of Ohio Statehouse(Photo: Flickr.com)

Democrats say thousands of Ohioans who voted in the presidential election in 2008 won’t be able to vote this year if weekend voting is not allowed. Republicans say this is just rhetoric being used to cause confusion in this election.

Democratic House Minority Leader Armond Budish says the decision by Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted to order all 88 county boards of elections to hold the same hours for in person early voting is unfair.

Budish says take the 2008 presidential election for example.  He says only 933 voters cast in person ballots early at the Jackson County board of elections.  But he says in Cuyahoga County, more than 54 thousand voters voted in person and early at that board.

The Democrats want early, in person weekend voting on the weekends before the election….hours that have since been wiped out by the Republican dominated Ohio legislature and Husted.  Democratic State Representative Alicia Reese says voters in her district are outraged.

“Citizens have come up to me asking why, as a voter, have I been called lazy? Why, as a voter, have I been called a criminal because I want to go vote? As a voter, why are they making it more difficult because I work two shifts and I want to get to the board of elections to vote but I don’t want to lose my job in the process?  Why in Ohio is the vote under attack?” Asks Reese.

Secretary of State Jon Husted says the vote isn’t under attack.

“It is easy to vote.  It is fair to vote.  And it is secure to vote.  And those are the principles we should have intact in any successful election system and I respectfully disagree with their assertion that it isn’t easy to vote in Ohio.”  Says Husted

Husted says voting in 2008 was actually skewed in a way that helped provide unfair opportunities to some voters in some counties.

“In previous elections, counties were allowed to establish days and hours of operation.  It was all left up to them.  But what occurred in some counties had longer hours than others.  I had always acted in a uniform hours in how I was breaking ties.  But it became apparent to me that I needed to take an additional step to expand the principle of uniformity that I’ve been working on as secretary of state.  So now, for the first time ever, we will have a single standard of voting across the state of Ohio.  It will be fair for everybody and how they vote. ”

As far as the complaint that some voters might not be able to make it to the polls during the weekday voting hours he’s set, Husted says they don’t have to.

“Well we have weekend voting…it’s just that it’s as home via mail.”  Says Husted

But Democrats say absentee voting by mail is not a substitute for actually being able to go in to elections boards to physically cast a ballot. Representative Reese says many voters in her urban Hamilton county district don’t trust paper ballots…especially after a situation in which the fate of

“There is a lack of confidence after the issue with provisional ballots.  People feel more comfortable being able to see their votes go into that box that they have seen themselves. ” Says Reese

The Democrats say there’s one more thing to consider. Kathleen Clyde says efficiencies have been made at local boards of elections since 2008 that will affect the vote.

“We’ve consolidated a lot of precincts because we’ve had such early voting so we have a potential problem on Election Day with fewer opportunities to cast a vote.  We have limited hours on early voting.  And now we have these urban boards that used to provide postage to mail in their ballots are no longer allowed to do that.”  Says Clyde

Clyde notes young voters are often not accustomed to using the postal service for anything.  And she says postage on the oversized ballot envelopes could prove costly enough to discourage very low income voters.

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