Columbus — A federal judge has ordered Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted to open early polls on the final Saturday, Sunday and Monday before the November general election.
As he did two years ago during the presidential election, U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus determined earlier legislation ending early in-person voting on the Friday before Election Day is unconstitutional.
But this time, Economus issued a permanent injunction to ensure the final three days of early voting are available for “all future election days for all eligible voters.”
Husted indicated June 11 he would follow the judge’s decision.
“I am pleased that the federal court has affirmed what I have long advocated — that all voters, no matter where they live, should have the same opportunity to vote,” he said in a released statement. “Thankfully, uniformity and equality won the day.”
He added, “Absent legislative action to set hours, I had adopted by directive the only bipartisan schedule that has been offered. Now that the court has ruled, I will follow the decision.”
The judge is still allowing Husted to set hours for the affected days, “to preserve the right of all Ohio voters to cast his or her vote, with said hours to be uniform throughout the state and suitable to the needs of the particular election in question.”
In February, Husted issued directions to county elections boards about voting hours for the general election, noting that early polls would be open weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., plus from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on two Saturdays (Oct. 25 and Nov. 1).
Husted set the hours based on the recommendation of county elections officials and absent action by state lawmakers, who refrained from codifying early polling hours.
Wednesday’s ruling drew quick praise from Democrats, who have advocated for increased opportunities for Ohioans to cast ballots.
“All along, we believed the actions of the Republican-controlled legislature, Secretary of State Husted and Gov. Kasich were unconstitutional; and yet again, a federal judge has agreed,” state Rep. Chris Redfern (D-Catawba Island), who serves as chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said in a released statement. “This ruling shows how important these last three days are to ensure equal access to the ballot, and the hours set by Secretary Husted should reflect that.”
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.