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How Ohio’s Top Elections Official’s Early Voting Proposal Would Keep Black Voters From The Polls

By Ian Millhiser

"How Ohio’s Top Elections Official’s Early Voting Proposal Would Keep Black Voters From The Polls"

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Jon Husted

Shortly after the 2012 presidential election, ThinkProgress labeled Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) one of America’s “five worst election officials,” in large part because of his dogged efforts to restrict early voting. Husted attempted to limit early voting to weekdays, and he defied a court order requiring early voting hours to be restored — although he eventually backed down after the court ordered him to personally appear to explain himself.

Had Husted’s efforts succeeded, it likely would have been a boon to Republican candidates in his state. As a federal appeals court explained in an opinion ruling against Husted’s efforts to limit voting opportunities, “early voters have disproportionately lower incomes and less education than election day voters, and because all evening and weekend voting hours prior to the final weekend were eliminated by Directive 2012-35, ‘thousands of voters who would have voted during those three days will not be able to exercise their right to cast a vote in person.’”

On Thursday, Husted proposed new plans to restrict early voting in Ohio, although his latest proposal is more modest than his efforts to restrict early voting in the 2012 cycle. Under his latest plan, early voting would begin 29 days before an election, rather than 35, and early voting on the Sunday before a general election would be eliminated except in presidential years.

Although this new proposal may seem like a minor tweak, cutting voting on the Sunday before elections would likely have a very clear partisan impact. Many African American churches sponsor voter turnout events on that day. Indeed, in Florida, one Republican consultant admitted that a state law eliminated early voting on that particular Sunday because “that’s a big day when the black churches organize themselves.”

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