Dem Lawmakers Urge Secretary Husted to Not Cut off Early Voting

The tactics are confusing, and the reasoning complicated, but the result is clear: Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State wants to cut down on your right to early vote in this election.  He doesn’t want early voting on the three traditionally busiest days.  We think that’s wrong.

So, two of the leading elections experts in our caucus, State Reps. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) and Ronald V. Gerberry (D-Austintown), Ranking Member on the State Government and Elections committee, held a news conference today amid the ongoing confusion surrounding the implementation of the military voting bill, HB 224.  Over the last month, Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly contacted Secretary Husted informing him of their concerns and asking him not to thwart the HB 194 referendum and to allow in-person early voting at county Boards of Elections through Monday, Nov. 7.  Secretary Husted has refused these requests and ignored the concerns.

“House Bill 224 is obviously not clear on many points, yet it is being treated as a clear statement of the legislature’s intention by the Secretary of State’s office.  We ask Secretary Husted to immediately rescind his Advisory 2011-7 and notify local Boards of Elections that they are to remain open for early voting through Monday, November 7,” Rep. Clyde said.  “If we sit by while executive office holders make the law, we are abdicating our duty as lawmakers and setting a dangerous precedent with respect to the separation of powers between the branches of government.”

Secretary of State Jon Husted has ordered early voting to be cut off on Friday, November 4. This means the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day, the three busiest days across the state, there will be no in-person early voting at local Boards of Elections. This is due to confusion between House Bill 194, which has been put on hold due to referendum, and House Bill 224. In cutting off early voting three days early, Secretary Husted is implementing parts of House Bill 224 that are impossible to implement due to the stay on House Bill 194.

“The attempt to implement this unreadable bill threatens people’s right to Equal Protection under the U.S. Constitution. If Secretary of State Husted continues to require that in-person early voting end on Friday, he is opening up his office and local Boards of Elections to lawsuits,” said Rep. Gerberry.  “The voters of Ohio have spoken – they want a chance to vote on how Ohio conducts early voting and Secretary Husted should not take that choice away from them.”

One of the most important problems with Secretary Husted’s reading of House Bill 224 is that it violates the Equal Protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution.  Secretary Husted’s Advisory says early voting must end Friday for non-military voters only and that military voters shall be permitted to vote early through Monday, November 7.  Neither House Bill 194 nor House Bill 224 intended to create two different early vote end dates.  Reasonable accommodations for military/overseas voters can and should be made.  However, for purposes of in-person early voting, both military and non-military voters are identically situated, and treating them differently in this circumstance violates the guarantee of Equal Protection of the laws. 

 Told you this was complicated, but it is also very important.  If you would like more background…see the links below….

  • 2011 Elections Calendar currently posted on the Secretary of State website listing November 7 as the final day for in-person early voting
  • Early voting information page from the Secretary of State website – no mention of November 4 end to early voting
  • Absentee deadline information from the Secretary of State website indicating voters may vote early at their local Board of Election “no later than the day before the election.
  • Language creating a new reason to throw out absentee ballots can be seen here.
  • Language adding confusion to the provisional ballot law can be seen here.
  • October 4 Letter from Secretary Husted to legislative leaders asking for clarity can be seen here.
  • October 14 Letter to Secretary Husted from the Democrats on the State Government and Elections Committee regarding early voting can be seen here.
  • October 14 Response from Secretary Husted regarding early voting can be seen here.
  • October 20 letter to Secretary Husted from State Government and Elections Committee Ranking Member Rep. Ron Gerberry and Committee Member Rep. Kathleen Clyde highlighting additional problems with HB 224 can be seen here.
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