Since 2005, Ohio has allowed early, in-person voting with many counties opening at night and on weekends to help reduce the lines on election day. The program was so well received, especially in the black community, that the GOP has done everything it can over the past year to limit early voting in hopes of avoiding a repeat of Obama’s win in 2008.
Last year, they passed a law that blocked early voting on the 3 days prior to the election for everyone but overseas and military voters. And last month, Secretary of State Jon Husted went even further, prohibiting any county from opening at night or on weekends during the entire five weeks of early voting.
The Obama campaign sued over the new law, and a federal district judge agreed, ruling last Friday that the final weekend should be open to everyone. Rather than following the judge’s order, Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine will appeal the ruling, with Husted directing counties not to schedule voting for that weekend. The judge yesterday ordered Husted to appear, in person, in his courtroom — an unusual move signaling his displeasure with Husted.
Today Husted reversed course, but only slightly. In order to get back on the judge’s good side, he rescinded his directive barring counties from setting voting hours on the final weekend. But he simultaneously asked for a stay of the district court decision and said he planned to appeal at the 6th Circuit.
Husted did not order counties to open up on the final weekend nor did he rescind his earlier order blocking all weekend voting, which still stands. Last week he fired two elections officials who dared to defy that directive, so we suspect none will step up and try now.
So do not be fooled by triumphant headlines. Today’s news is not a victory for voting rights advocates in Ohio.
Adding to the bad news, noted legal experts think Husted has a good chance of winning on appeal.
Make no mistake, Republicans do not want people who tend to vote at night and on weekends (read–Democrats) to have as many opportunities to do so.
Today’s move toward appeal (ignoring major newspaper editorials urging otherwise) is proof.