ELN-OHIO

James Hairston of Copley, Ohio, fills out his ballot while voting at Copley High School on mid-term election day.

The state of Ohio is appealing a federal judge’s recent decision to strike down a controversial law restricting early voting in Ohio. 

Federal Judge Peter Economus struck down a state law Aug. 31, barring in-person-early voting the weekend before the Nov. 6 election, FitzGibbon Media announced in a statement.

Ohio is appealing the ruling, and Secretary of State Jon Husted isn’t allowing boards to set up for early voting until the appeal is resolved, but does intend to follow the ruling of the court, said Matt McClellan, Husted’s press secretary.

“The Board of Elections asked for a break between election day and the early voting timeframe to process absentee ballots so they can update the list of who voted,” McClellan said.

This would prevent people from voting twice — once as an absentee and again on election day — and still provide ample time for voters to get to the polls, McClellan said. 

FitzGibbon Media stated critics of Husted’s early voting position delivered more than 80,000 petition signatures to his office Wednesday, calling for him to ensure a “fair election.”

“Access to the polls is not about partisan politics, it's about a functioning democracy,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorOfChange, an activist group dedicated to voter outreach in the black community, in the statement. 

“We're here today to show Secretary Husted that tens of thousands of people are calling on him to ensure a fair election,” Robinson said.

Organizations such as ColorOfChange, Fighting for Ohio Jobs and Stand up for Ohio were involved in organizing the petition delivery. 

Voting fraud as a result of early, in-person voting is a “rare, infrequent bipartisan occurrence,” said Patrick Miller, assistant professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati. 

“You have to go back decades to find evidence of early voting fraud,” Miller said.

But Miller also said the idea that early voting gets more people to the polls is inaccurate.


“The average voter is only so engaged,” Miller said. “By-in-large, the people who take advantage of early voting are most likely to vote to begin with.” 

The Hamilton County Board of Elections (HCBOE) encourages early, in-person absentee voting because it relieves pressure from the poll booths on election day, said Joe Mallory, HCBOE elections administrator. 

“Last presidential election, 109,000 people [in Hamilton County] took advantage of early absentee voting — that's over 25 percent,” Mallory said. 

While Husted has taken extensive steps to maintain uniformity throughout Ohio’s polling process, a lawsuit filed by President Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee claimed his extra accommodations for military voters are unfair.

Military voters will be allowed to receive ballots electronically to make sure those overseas have ample time to cast their vote, but Ohio isn’t allowed to treat one group of voters differently from another, McClellan said. 

Early voting battles before any election year generally only affect the way politicians campaign, Miller said, noting Obama succeeded in getting early voters to turn out in North Carolina during the 2008 presidential election. 

It takes 270 electoral votes to win the presidential election, and Ohio accounts for 18 of them.  No Republican has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio.