Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has fired two Montgomery County board of election members who voted for expanded early voting hours on weekends in defiance of his state-wide directive ordering them to restrict voting hours to weekdays only. Dennis Lieberman and Thomas J. Ritchie, Sr. were suspended immediately after voting to expand the board’s hours and defended themselves at a hearing last week.
Husted introduced the standardized voting schedule as an attempt to appease the outrage over his intervention restricting the voting hours in Democrat-leaning urban counties. But instead of simply allowing all 88 boards of elections to open on weekends, Husted decreed no one could. The Montgomery County Democrats immediately revolted, followed by a symbolic gesture by the commissioners of Mahoning County and a request from Republican-heavy Medina County to reevaluate the ban on weekend voting hours.
Husted recently backed out of a planned appearance with former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who was mired in accusations of disenfranchisement after Ohio’s chaotic 2004 election, at a Tea Party event hosted by vote-suppression group True the Vote. Husted’s decision to restrict voting hours has come under even more scrutiny after the chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party warned that expanding hours would “accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”
This isn’t the first time Husted has come into conflict with these two election officials. Lieberman and Ritchie voted against Husted’s tenuous claim of residency when he was a state representative in 2009. Husted survived the vote.
The two Democrats may choose to sue over their firing, adding to the pile of lawsuits against Husted’s office, including the Obama campaign’s effort to restore voting on the last weekend before the election. Most recently, Husted was sued by his Democratic predecessor, Jennifer Brunner, over the directive to limit hours.