Early voting in Ohio to end earlier in Nov.
By Marc Kovac
Secretary of State Jon Husted is advising county election boards to cease early-voting activities a couple of days earlier than expected.
In-person absentee voting will have to be completed by Nov. 4, the Friday before the general election, eliminating early ballots being cast over that weekend.
Lawmakers made the change as part of a separate bill that dealt mostly with military and overseas voters but included language setting the cutoff date for in-person early voting. The vote on that legislation, House Bill 224, was unanimous, with all Republican and Democratic members on hand supporting.
Comparable provisions were included in a Republican-backed election reform package, House Bill 194, that is on hold, pending an effort to place it before voters in November 2012.
The latter prompted nine Democratic lawmakers to send a letter to Husted Friday, voicing concern about shortening the absentee voting period.
They wrote, “The voters have made clear they want to have a say on these harmful cuts to early voting, and trying to implement this part of HB 194 before voters have that say is an invitation for the courts to get involved. HB 224’s Friday cutoff of early voting cannot be implemented because it conflicts with the clear intentions and actions of the voters who signed the HB 194 referendum petition to stop such a cut to early voting from taking effect.”
Rep. Ronald Gerberry, a Democrat from Austintown and ranking minority member on the House’s state government and elections committee, added in a released statement, “The voters of Ohio have spoken — they want a chance to vote on how Ohio conducts early voting, and Secretary Husted should not take that choice away from them.”
In a letter responding to the Democrats Friday, Husted said he had no choice but to advise elections boards to stop in-person voting on the Friday before Election Day.
“House Bill 224 will become part of the Ohio Revised Code on Oct. 27, 2011, and it is my duty to enforce the law as written,” Husted wrote. “Hypothetically, even if I agreed with your statement of intent, I am not at liberty to ignore the law.”
In addition to shortening Ohio’s early voting period, House Bill 194 would eliminate the so-called “golden week” during which people could register to vote and cast ballots on the same day and prohibit election boards from sending unsolicited absentee ballot applications to eligible voters, among other provisions.