Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted on Wednesday yielded to mounting state and national criticism of Ohio's uneven early voting rules, ordering that voting hours be the same across the state.
The Republican directed Ohio's 88 county boards of election to adhere to these hours of operation during the 35-day early voting period: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the first three weeks, and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the final two weeks.
But there will be no weekend voting when early voting begins on Oct. 2, Husted said.
"The bottom line is the antagonists have made an issue about the fact that voters aren't being treated fairly, that they aren't being treated the same," Husted said during a hastily called news conference at his office. "Today we're treating voters everywhere the same."
The secretary's order has hardly squelched the controversy as Democrats immediately issued calls of injustice over the lack of weekend voting hours, a crucial voting period for Democrats during the last presidential election in 2008.
Ohio House Democrats Armond Budish of Beachwood and Sandra Williams of Cleveland issued a statement noting that 21 counties had already decided to have early voting hours on weekends, which Husted's directive now nullifies. They noted that the directive will make it difficult for people who work typical business hours to vote early.
Husted on Wednesday said he supports uniform early voting hours, but slammed the Republican-controlled legislature for not addressing the matter in statute and helping to cause the controversy that on Wednesday drew a scathing New York Times editorial rebuke of Husted.
"What would you like the hours of operation to be? I wish the General Assembly would establish that," Husted said. "Because I don't like the idea that it is left in the hands of myself or any other secretary of state in the future. But they didn't do that."
Husted also blamed partisan politics for the recent uproar. He was talking about Democrats.
"What we are is a swing state. And partisans will try to make hay out of the rules, and that's the reason today the rules are fair for everyone," he said. "You may not like the hours of operation. You may think they are too long, you may think they are too short. But they are fair for everybody."
Husted noted that this year for the first time Ohio is mailing out absentee ballot applications to all 6.8 million registered Ohio voters, which increases access to voting by mail. And while critics may not like the hours he has set, Husted said there will be 35 full days before the Nov. 6 election when people can find time to vote early if they choose.
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