Husted rescinds order against early-voting hours

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Husted rescinds order against early-voting hours

Secretary of State Jon Husted on Friday rescinded his directive forbidding Ohio counties to set their own voting hours for the weekend before the Nov. 6 election, pending a legal appeal.

But Husted asked a federal court to issue a legal stay that would effectively accomplish the same thing.

His court motion was the fourth development in eight days regarding “final-weekend” voting.

*U.S. District Judge Peter Economus in Columbus ruled Aug. 31 that Ohio laws prohibiting final-weekend voting were unconstitutional, adding that he “anticipated” Husted would set a “specific, consistent schedule on those three days.”

*Husted and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine appealed the ruling, and Husted issued a directive prohibiting counties from setting their own hours while the appeal was pending, saying he was trying to prevent more confusing changes.

*When the Obama campaign objected to that directive, Economus quickly set a hearing for next Thursday, demanding that Husted attend in person.

*Husted rescinded the directive Friday, apologizing for creating any “misimpression,” and asked Economus to stay his Aug. 31 ruling pending appeal.

In Friday’s motion, Husted said Economus’ ruling appeared to do two contrary things — revert state law to its early 2011 status, meaning counties could set their own early-voting hours; while also putting the burden on Husted to set uniform hours.

Since the ruling did not issue a deadline to set final-weekend hours, and since the three days in question are two months away, Husted believed his directive was “reasonable, responsible and consistent with the order,” according to his motion.

Having now rescinded the directive, Husted is asking Economus to issue a stay of his ruling, again on the grounds to avoid confusion. Ohio’s in-person early voting schedules having changed twice in the past three weeks, and Husted argues that announcing a final-weekend schedule now, then potentially changing again depending on an appeals court ruling, would make matters worse.

“Absent a stay or a directive by the Secretary, there is a real concern that county boards of elections will begin issuing early in-person absentee voting schedules for the three-day period before the Secretary can issue a uniform schedule,” Husted’s motion reads.

Local voting rights advocate Ellis Jacobs said if Husted wants to avoid confusion, all he has to do is withdraw his appeal and set voting hours for those last three days. Democrats estimated that 93,000 Ohio voters cast ballots during the three days before the 2008 presidential election. Several studies found those voters were more likely to be African-American or earn lower incomes — groups that often vote with the Democrats.

“2008 showed that voters want to be able to vote on those last three days … and now you have a federal court saying you should have voting on those days,” he said. “So let’s just do it and quit fooling around.”

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