By Marc Kovac
Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to determine whether Ohio should open early voting to all voters on the final three days before Election Day.
Husted announced the move Tuesday, several days after a federal appeals court sided with an earlier ruling allowing voting on Nov. 3, 4 and 5 — a decision Husted called “an unprecedented intrusion ... into how states run elections.”
“This ruling not only doesn’t make legal sense, it doesn’t make practical sense,” Husted said in a released statement. “The court is saying that all voters must be treated the same way under Ohio law but also grants Ohio’s 88 elections boards the authority to establish 88 different sets of rules. That means that one county may close down voting for the final weekend while a neighboring county may open one. How any court could consider this a remedy to an equal-protection problem is stunning.”
President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign sued Husted after changes in state law allowed men and women serving in the military to cast early ballots on the three days before Election Day but barred all other eligible voters from doing the same.
The Obama campaign argued all voters should be allowed the same early- voting opportunities.
Legal counsel for Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine countered that it was fully proper and constitutional for the state to offer special accommodations to military voters.
They also said election boards need time to complete their regular responsibilities, given the commitment required during Ohio’s early-voting period.
A federal judge and appeals court both sided with the Obama campaign.
Husted made it clear Tuesday that he would issue a directive requiring uniform early-voting hours on the final three days in question, should the U.S. Supreme Court rule against him.
“The last thing I want to see is a nonuniform system where voters will be treated differently in all 88 counties,” Husted said. “Since some boards of elections have already started to take action on hours of operation for the three days before Election Day, I am going to take time to consult with all 88 counties before crafting a directive to set uniform hours should the state not be successful upon appeal.”
State Rep. Kathleen Clyde, a Democrat from Kent who has called for weekend early voting, said Husted was only “prolonging confusion” with the decision.