Despite Court Order, Ohio’s GOP Election Chief Is Still Cutting Back Early Voting

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"Despite Court Order, Ohio’s GOP Election Chief Is Still Cutting Back Early Voting"

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R)

Two federal courts said that the Ohio Republican Party’s effort to reduce opportunities to vote early must not go into effect. And the Supreme Court rejected an attempt by Ohio Republican officials to reinstate a GOP-backed law taking away three days of early voting just this week.

Yet despite multiple court defeats, Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted is determined to restrict early voting as much as he can get away with. Indeed, Husted openly defied the first court order blocking the Republican restrictions on early voting, although he eventually backed down after a federal judge ordered him to appear in court personally to explain himself. Now, just two days after the conservative Roberts Court turned away Husted’s bid to reinstate the anti-voter law, he is still finding new ways to cut back early voting:

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted swiftly limited early voting hours on those crucial three days to 8 am–2 pm on Saturday, November 3; 1–5 pm on Sunday, November 4; and 8 am–2 pm on Monday, November 5. That means Ohio voters will have a total of only sixteen hours to cast a ballot during those three days. And before the weekend before the election, Ohio voters will still not be able to cast a ballot in-person on nights or weekends.

In 2008, the most populous counties in Ohio allowed more time for early voting—both in terms of days (thirty-five) and hours (on nights and weekends in many places). For the three days before the election, early voting locations were open for a total of twenty-four hours in Columbus’s Franklin County (8-5 on Saturday, 1-5 on Sunday and 8-7 on Monday) and 18 and a half hours in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County (9-1 on Saturday, 1-5 on Sunday, 8:30-7 pm on Monday). During those final three pre-election days in 2008, 148,000 votes were cast and “wait times stretched 2 1/2 hours,” reported the Columbus Dispatch.

There is a simple explanation for why Ohio Republicans are so determined to cut back early voting. Early voters are more likely to be minorities and are more likely to have lower incomes. They are also much less likely to have jobs that give them the flexibility to take time off to vote on election day. According to a recent Ohio poll, President Obama leads 57 percent to 38 percent among people who already voted, but is tied at 43 percent with Mitt Romney among likely voters who have yet to cast their ballot.

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