The state’s early-voting laws need changes, secretary of state says

By David Skolnick


Voting for the May primary begins next Tuesday, which is a little too early for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

Rather than starting early-voting 35 days before an election, it should be less than 30 days, Husted said Monday during a 70-minute meeting with the editorial board of The Vindicator.

But Husted, a Republican elected in 2010 as secretary of state, said he doesn’t have a specific plan.

Husted wants in-person early voting at county boards of elections to be less than 30 days before an election with some weekend access, extended hours during the final week before an election and no in-person voting on Mondays before Tuesday elections.

Waiting in long lines to vote is a “choice” because registered voters in Ohio can cast a ballot by mail without leaving their homes, he said.

During the November 2012 presidential election, 1.8 million of the 5.6 million voters in the state cast ballots early, a record for Ohio.

Husted said he will continue to support efforts for online voter registration and absentee-ballot requests.

“We probably faced the most pre-election scrutiny in the country,” Husted said.

Numerous lawsuits were filed against Husted and by him leading up to the presidential election. But he said the election went well.

Husted was asked late last year to break a 2-2 tie among members of the Trumbull County Board of Elections about reducing precincts. He urged the four members to handle it themselves as they know more about the issue than he does.

The board reached a compromise in January to reduce the 210 voting precincts to 152 on Jan. 1, 2015.

The Mahoning County Board of Elections also is looking at reducing its 273 precincts, but no decision has been made. Again, Husted said he would prefer to have local officials decide local issues.

Currently, Mahoning has the lowest average number of voters per precinct, 623, among the state’s 13 most-populous counties with Trumbull second at 721 per precinct.

Also, Trumbull election officials recently complained about poll workers in 41 precincts not complying with an election-night rule that requires a Democrat and a Republican in each precinct to travel together to the board office to turn in ballots.

Though Husted said he doesn’t have any firsthand knowledge of the problem being widespread, “I fear it is more common than it should be. It should be never. We need to remind people to follow the law.”

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