A federal judge has ruled the state must restore early voting hours that were cut by the Ohio legislature through new laws. Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports the ruling means early voting opportunities that were in place back in 2012 will likely be in place for this election.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is pleased with a ruling by a federal court judge to require Ohio to return to more flexible voting hours before this November’s election. The A C L U’s Mike Brickner says this Federal Judge’s ruling will do several things.
“Golden week, which is the overlap between the end of voter registration and the beginning of early voting, is now restored, so we will have the full 35 days of early voting that many Ohioans have been used to for nearly a decade," Brickner said. "He also ordered the secretary of state to set Sunday voting hours on Oct. 26 so we will have two full Sundays of early voting for the 2014 election. And he also ordered the secretary of state to set hours for evenings on the two weeks before the election during the early voting period.”
Peg Rosenfield with the Ohio League of Women Voters says this change will help make sure all Ohioans who are eligible to vote get to do so.
“It really means it will be much easier for people who work, people who have child care problems and responsibilities," she said. "It will make it so much easier for people to be able to vote this fall and we hope in future elections. Eligible voters should have as many opportunities as possible to get to the polls and be able to vote in person. It’s wonderful news.”
But it wasn't wonderful news to Republican House Speaker Bill Batchelder, since the judge also told the legislature it needs to put these hours into law for the future.
“All of a sudden, it’s our problem?" Batchelder said. "I think he made the problem, and that’s too bad, but obviously we may or may not be able to get into the Court of Appeals. Apparently the judges make the law now with regard to these issues and that’s probably not a very good solution.”
Republican State Rep. Matt Huffman was more defiant about the judges suggestion to the legislature.
“The Ohio legislature doesn’t take marching orders from a federal judge," Huffman said.
Huffman said even before this judge’s ruling, Ohio had a variety of voting options that other states lack.
“You’ve all seen and probably reprinted in your various publications the New York Times editorials about what Ohio is doing with its voting and of course, New York has no early voting," he said. "And of course, they are not critical of that because the party they want to win always wins the elections.”
Republican lawmakers pushed through these restrictions on early voting have insisted they are not trying to get an upper hand in doing so.
But some of the early voting options, like the Sundays before the election, for example, are thought to benefit Democrats.
In the last few big elections, African American churches in big cities have transported members to the polls on buses to the polls to vote on Sundays.
Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted said the state must appeal this ruling, which he said is inconsistent. He said Ohio can’t simultaneously treat people "simultaneously treat people the same and differently."
And that means there’s potential uncertainty as early voting is set to start in a few weeks.