Voting hours have been expanded on weekdays and Saturdays in some of Ohio’s Republican-leaning counties but not in Democratic-leaning ones. The outcry has been so fierce that Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State – who made the decision creating the disparity – now says he’s considering creating standard voting hours across the state.
As the Toledo Blade explained:
“Four years ago, more than 60 percent of the voters in Butler and Warren counties backed Republican John McCain.
This year both counties, the biggest two in Ohio to go for the GOP presidential candidate, are staying open extra hours on weekdays and Saturdays so their residents can cast early ballots.
In 2008, voters in Ohio’s two largest counties, Cuyahoga and Franklin, went for Democrat Barack Obama by 60 percent or more.
But elections offices in those two predominantly Democratic counties will be open for early voting only during regular business hours on weekdays and not at all on Saturdays.
A similar Republican-Democrat disparity is occurring in several areas across the state as county elections boards decide whether to add hours during Ohio’s early voting period.”
Each of Ohio’s 88 counties has a Board of Elections consisting of two Republicans and two Democrats. These boards vote on any issue regarding the logistics of voting including polling days and hours of operation. In the case of a tie, Ohio’s Secretary of State steps in to make the final decision.
The way this played out is that in traditionally Republican counties, both Republican and Democratic board members voted in favor of expanding poll hours to include an extra night and weekend hours. But in some Democratic leaning counties, Republican board members voted against the expansion of voting hours resulting in a 2-2 tie. Secretary of State Jon Husted broke the tie by voting against voting hour expansion.
According to The Blade, he said he wanted the county boards to set their own hours because he believes in local control. If they could not agree on hours, he would make their early voting hours the same as their regular business hours.
Previously, he’d said the decision also was due to the budget constraints faced by the local election boards, and that “there is no need for extended hours for in-person absentee voting.”
He now says that “Given the controversy that has seemed to envelop this and the lack of facts out there, I will be forced to consider issuing a standard directive for hours of operation.”
Husted has made some clear attempts to make voting easier for Ohioans through new programs such as sending absentee ballot applications to every voter in Ohio. Another program allows Ohio voters to change their voting address online in hopes of cutting down the number of provisional ballots.
The state of Ohio has had its share of controversy during presidential elections, and much of it has centered around the office of the Secretary of State. For example, following the 2004 election, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee issued a report accusing Ohio of “massive and unprecedented voter irregularities and anomalies.” The report stated, “these irregularities were caused by intentional misconduct and illegal behavior, much of it involving Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.” Blackwell was simultaneously acting as Ohio’s chief elections officer and co-chairman of George W. Bush’s campaign in the state.