After previously trying to restrict early voting, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) today reversed course on his decision to block county boards of elections from setting their own early voting hours in the days leading up to the November election.
Last month, Husted and Ohio Republicans led an effort to limit early voting hours in Democratic counties, including those with major cities like Columbus and Cleveland, while expanding early voting in Republican counties. After the ensuing uproar, Husted moved to restrict voting hours across the state, only to have his cuts to early voting restored by a federal court.
Husted responded to the ruling by refusing to comply with the court order. Expanding voting hours, he claimed in Directive 2012–40, will “only serve to confuse voters.” Therefore, the directive read, he was “prohibit[ing] county boards of elections from determining hours for the Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday before the election.” The move led Judge Peter Economus to set a hearing for September 13: “The Court ORDERS that Defendant Secretary of State Jon Husted personally attend the hearing,” his release read.
Facing a direct court order, Husted has chosen instead to back down. This afternoon, Husted’s office released Directive 2012–42 with a brief message: “Directive 2012–40 is hereby rescinded.” As a result, county boards of elections will now be allowed to set their own hours, pending Husted’s appeal of the Obama for America v. Husted decision.
Husted also issued a formal apology to the court for Directive 2012–40. “The Secretary’s intention was not to create a stay of this Court’s Order,” the filing read. “The Secretary apologizes to the federal district court for creating that misimpression and has rescinded Directive 2012–40.”
An eagle-eyed reader points out that this decision only affects early voting on the final weekend before the election. There is a separate fight to get Husted to re-instate early voting on all weekends.