Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Democrats Want Bill Setting Minimum Early Voting Hours

Minority Democrats in the Ohio Senate are proposing a bill requiring local boards of election to have a minimum amount of early voting hours on weekends and evenings. 

Republican Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted says that would set up an unfair voting system. Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles reports.

Ohio Republicans often point out there are more early voting options here than in many other states.  Voters in Ohio can cast a ballot by mail or they can vote, in person at local boards of elections, on some evenings and during some hours on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day.  The Republican-dominated legislature passed laws that did away with some weekend and evening hours, but a federal court judge recently ruled some of those should be restored.  Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted is appealing that ruling. But the Democrat who’d like to replace him says the state shouldn’t appeal it.  And Nina Turner is joining other Democratic Senators in calling for a bill that would set default voting hours throughout the state at local boards of elections.

“Why are we going backwards?  What is wrong with the progress that we have made in the state of Ohio? And to put a finer point on that, the whole notion that Ohio should be compared to other states….we should be the gold standard.  But that’s just like somebody saying that I robbed your house and I took everything out of your house but you still have your roof so why are you complaining.  It is a faulty premise.  It is wrong.”

But Husted says Ohio still has plenty of early voting options, even with restrictions passed into law recently.  And he says the federal judge who ordered Ohio to go back to the old rules and told the legislature to put them into law is wrong.

“The judge is contradicting himself.  In an earlier ruling, he said that we had to have fair and uniform hours across the state of Ohio.  And in this ruling, he says that counties can go set their own days and hours for voting.  That’s not fair.  That’s not equal.  That treats voters in one county differently than voters in another county.  It has the opportunity to set different rules in all 88 counties.  And I have always believed that Mary Smith living in Franklin County should vote by the same rules as Mary Smith living in Hamilton County.  And this really undermines that whole principle of fairness and equality.”

Democrats say it’s unfair to treat counties the same when large counties have different problems than smaller ones.  But Husted notes there are a lot of options that voters can use, including voting by mail.  And he says all of the early voting options have been added in just the last decade.

“Remember, in 2004, we voted on one day and in 2012, we voted for 35 days and more people voted in 2004 than they did in 2012.”

It is true that over 89 thousand more Ohioans voted in 2004 than in 2012.  But Turner says the 2004 election was historic because so many voters didn’t get to cast ballots.

“People were in long lines for hours and predominately, in urban areas where the population is, 6 and 8 hours, just to go vote.  Voting shouldn’t take all day.  And we do know that several hundred, or at least up to 170,000 people, according to which study you read, walked away and said they couldn’t stand in line to vote anymore.  But the legislature corrected that. The legislation, in a bipartisan way, corrected that.”

But in the last few years, the courts have been called upon to make corrections to new laws that reign in some of those voting opportunities that were enacted during the past decade.  And a federal court will likely be weighing in on the early voting issue again in the coming days as an appeals court considers the lower court ruling that restores cuts.  In the meantime, Democrats say they’ll push their Republican counterparts in the legislature to support this new bill to require a minimum early voting standard.  It’s doubtful the Republican dominated General Assembly will do that.

The Statehouse News Bureau was founded in 1980 to provide educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations. To this day, the Bureau remains the only broadcast outlet dedicated to in-depth coverage of state government news and topics of statewide interest. The Bureau is funded througheTech Ohio, and is managed by ideastream. The reporters at the Bureau follow the concerns of the citizens and voters of Ohio, as well as the actions of the Governor, the Ohio General Assembly, the Ohio Supreme Court, and other elected officials. We strive to cover statehouse news, government issues, Ohio politics, and concerns of business, culture and the arts with balance and fairness, and work to present diverse voices and points of view from the Statehouse and throughout Ohio. The three award-winning journalists at the bureau have more than 60 combined years of radio and television experience. They can be heard on National Public Radio and are regular contributors to Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Marketplace. Every weekday, the Statehouse News Bureau produces in-depth news reports forOhio's public radio stations. Those stories are also available on this website, either on the front page or in our archives. Weekly, the Statehouse News Bureau produces a television show from our studios in the Statehouse. The State of Ohio is an unique blend of news, interviews, talk and analysis, and is broadcast on Ohio's public television stations. The Statehouse News Bureau also produces special programming throughout the year, including the Governor's annual State of the State address to the Ohio General Assembly and a five-part year-end review.
Related Content