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Government and Politics

Ohio Secretary of State appeals federal court ruling to U.S. Supreme Court
Jon Husted doesn't think the ruling to allow early, in person weekend voting makes sense
This story is part of a special series.

Jo Ingles

Ohio’s top elections chief is asking the nation’s highest court to overrule last week’s federal appeals court ruling on early, in person weekend voting. Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles has more on the story.

Ingles on the court ruling

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Ingles on the court ruling short version

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Secretary of State Jon Husted says the federal appeals court ruling to allow early in person voting on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before the election doesn’t add up.

“This does not make legal sense.  It also does not make practical sense.”

Husted says, on one hand, the federal court ruling says all Ohio voters must be treated the same way.  But on the other hand, he says the court is giving Ohio’s 88 counties the authority to establish 88 different sets of rules.  Husted says federal courts do not have the authority to dictate how Ohio runs its elections.

“They are creating new fundamental rights in the federal court system for how voters are accessing the polls through the elections process and that is really an unprecedented move for the courts to take that action.”

The Executive Director of the Ohio Republican Party agrees.  Matt Borges says Ohio already allows more options for voting than most other states.

“The only state in the country that would have these weekend voting hours would be Ohio.  Why in 49 other states it’s ok to set rules, why the bluest of blue states like Rhode Island can have a voter id law that no one seems to have a problem with but when it comes to Ohio, the ultimate purple, swing state, the Obama campaign seems to want to find remedies in the courts and you know, that’s troubling.”

Jessica Kershaw with the Obama for America campaign says the Republicans want to find a different answer in the courts to a question that has already been answered.

“There really is no justification for the state’s arbitrary actions this year in trying to deny the vast majority of our voters to open polling places for the last three days before the election.  This has been the unanimous conclusion of the courts in the past and now that the secretary of state has chosen to extend the litigation and ask the US Supreme Court to intervene just four weeks before the election, we really have to reason to believe that he will be met with any more success than before.”

During the 2008 presidential election, some 93 thousand Ohioans voted on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day.  Kershaw says there’s no doubt that Ohioans prefer to vote early.  And she questions why Ohio’s Secretary of State is fighting something that voters find popular.

“The campaign certainly believes it’s a shame that the secretary would not have committed his office’s energy into towards implementing the outstanding court orders instead of litigating this further.  Really we should be administering an effective orderly process that served Ohio voters well in the past and that we expect to serve Ohio this season as well except for the fact that the Secretary has decided to commit energy to fight it.”

Husted says he will put a directive in place that boards should follow if he’s not successful in getting the U.S. Supreme Court to stop voting on the weekend before Election Day.  Husted says he’s talking to all of the leaders from county boards to come up with hours for voting on those days that are in legal limbo right now.  More than a million Ohio voters have requested mail in ballots so far. Fifty nine thousand have already voted in person at their local boards of elections.

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