Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced Wednesday that all 88 boards of election in the state must restrict early voting hours to weekdays. The uniform hours were decided in the wake of outcry over the disparity between restricted hours in Democratic-leaning counties and expanded hours in Republican-leaning counties.
All early voting locations will now be open Tuesday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm through October 12th, then Monday through Friday from 8 am to 7 pm through November 1st. Because weekend voting hours have been eliminated, all voting must end Friday, November 2nd at 6 pm.
By decreeing this new rule, Husted complicates the Obama campaign’s lawsuit over a new law barring all but military families the right to vote in the three days leading up to the election. While the Obama campaign wanted to restore that right to everyone, Husted’s decision means no one, including military voters, can vote during this period.
Husted, a Republican, scoffed at the “political hysteria” and “partisan controversy” surrounding the differing schedules, saying, “It has been in law and in tradition in Ohio that local Boards of Elections have established their own voting hours.”
But the break with tradition was of Husted’s own making; when the local committees in Cuyahoga, Summit, Lucas, and Franklin counties gridlocked over expanding hours, the Secretary of State stepped in to deny the expansion. These counties contain Ohio’s most populous and diverse cities: Cleveland, Toledo, Akron, and Columbus, which all went to Obama in 2008. 82% of early voters in Franklin County and 50% of Cuyahoga County voters voted on nights or weekends. Republican territories Warren and Butler Counties, meanwhile, approved expanded hours, as they had in the 2008 election.
Lynn Kinkaid, Director of the Butler County Board of Elections, told ThinkProgress they expanded hours “to give every citizen the ability to vote” and recalled long lines of voters on weekends during the 2008 election. But he personally agreed with Husted’s directive to limit hours, noting the strain on staff and county budgets that can’t afford to pay overtime for weekend pollworkers. However, the county has asked the Secretary of State’s office to allow them to stay open on Columbus Day, which the new directive prohibits.