Report: Ohio Secretary Of State’s Restrictive Voting Hours Hurt Urban Voters

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) became one of the most notorious election officials in the country after his many attempts to restrict voting and discard ballots. Husted banned evening and weekend voting hours in all 88 boards of election, in spite of multiple counties‘ requests to stay open to accommodate people who could not leave their jobs to vote. The 2012 election was the first time election boards were not allowed to set their own hours.

A new report by the Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates found that these uniform voting hours created longer waits in urban counties. Residents of cities like Columbus experienced marathon lines on the last day of early voting. Even though more people turned out to vote in smaller counties than did in urban counties, rural Ohioans experienced little to no wait to vote:

Waiting times for in person voting during the last 3 days before election day was related to the number of voters, and even more so to county population: mostly less than 0.5 to 1.0 hour in almost all counties sampled with less than 160,000 population, but between 1-4 hours in all sampled counties with populations over 160,000. Therefore, the statewide uniform rules limiting weekend days, hours, and sites available for in-person voting resulted in unacceptably long waiting times for in-person voters in larger counties.

The report calls for greater flexibility in voting hours based on each county’s needs. Husted initially stepped in to break the partisan tie over expanding early voting hours in Ohio’s largest counties, creating a discrepancy between limited hours in traditionally Democratic counties and expanded hours in their Republican counterparts. After public outcry, Husted issued his directive restricting hours in all counties. He was ultimately forced to open the last weekend before the election to early voters by a court order.

When the directive was implemented, one Republican official in Columbus freely admitted that the restrictive voting schedule would hinder “urban — read African American” voters. The NOVA report notes that voters in urban counties heavily used weekend and evening hours in the last 2-3 weeks of the 2008 election.