When we last left the early voting tussle in Ohio, a federal judge ordered the state to open the polls on the weekend before the election. The Secretary of State, Jon Husted, planned to file an appeal. But he went further than that. He said that he would not institute the court order until after the outcome of that appeal, and make no preparations for the early voting sites to open that weekend before the election. Husted’s order prohibited county boards of elections from setting hours for the weekend voting.
Lynn Kinkaid, Director of the Butler County Board of Elections, which originally voted to hold weekend hours before Husted’s directive restricted them, told ThinkProgress the board is powerless to act against the Secretary of State’s directive. “I can’t imagine we would disobey a court order…he must have a good reason for it,” Kinkaid said. “He’s the big boss. I’m not going to second-guess my boss.”
Husted fired two Montgomery County election board members after they defied his directive and voted to hold weekend voting hours. Two other Ohio counties have asked Husted to reevaluate the voting restrictions.
The county election boards might not want to cross Husted, but federal judges don’t like it when you deny their existence. The judge, Peter Economus, set a date for a hearing for next week, and ordered that Husted “personally attend the hearing.” I would expect Economus to subject Husted to quite a bit of yelling next Wednesday.
The appeals process is being expedited, so we should have an answer on this well before the election. But preparations should be in place at this point.
Meanwhile, in other voting rights news, a coalition of civil rights groups plans to send voter registration materials in the mail to over 4 million voters within the next few weeks. The coalition, led by the Voter Participation Center, sent out the applications, along with instructions for how to register and pre-addressed envelopes and even a QR-reader barcode to go to targeted online registration resources, in 28 states. The fact that we don’t have universal voter registration in this country is a moral crime, but this is at least an opportunity to cut into that somewhat.