After Bucking Federal Judge On Early Voting, Ohio Secretary Of State Ordered To Appear In Court
Judge Peter Economus has set a hearing for September 13 to address Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s refusal to comply with the court’s ruling that the state must allow early voting on the three days leading up to the general election. Economus released a terse order Wednesday afternoon: “The Court ORDERS that Defendant Secretary of State Jon Husted personally attend the hearing.” The Obama campaign filed a motion earlier Wednesday asking the court to make Husted give way.
Husted issued a directive Tuesday stating that he would appeal the decision to restore early voting on those three days, claiming that changing the hours now would “only serve to confuse voters.” The directive “strictly prohibits county boards of elections from determining hours for the Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday before the election.”
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.
Kinkaid recalled huge turnout in Butler County, which voted for McCain in 2008, on the weekend before the election: “There was a lot of people out there. We had them lined up two people, down the hall, out the door, over into the churchyard a block or two away. People waited for three hours.” By Kinkaid’s estimate, poll workers worked 36 hours of overtime that weekend.
There are several pending lawsuits against Husted’s office, including a recent suit by his Democratic predecessor, Jennifer Brunner, over his directive to limit voting hours. On Tuesday, the two fired board of elections members called for Husted’s resignation over a redistricting ballot issue.
Ohio Secretary Of State Jon Husted Backs Off Directive Impeding Weekend Voting
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted on Friday rescinded a directive that would have prohibited Ohio counties from setting hours for early voting on the three days before the Nov. 6 election. But he still asked for a stay of a federal court ruling that had reinstated those voting days in response to an Obama for America lawsuit.
Husted had issued a directive on Tuesday prohibiting Ohio counties from setting new hours for early voting, in a move that plaintiffs said disobeyed last week's court ruling by U.S. District Judge Peter Economus. Husted argued that setting new hours before the appellate court weighed in could "confuse voters."
The Obama campaign filed a motion Wednesday asking the court to enforce its ruling. Economus then ordered Husted to appear in court personally.
On Friday, Husted backed off. In a court filing, he "apologizes to the federal district court for creating that misimpression" that he was not properly complying with the court's ruling.
He asked the court to stay its ruling. "At a minimum, the Court should issue a stay so that the Secretary has a reasonable period of time to choose a schedule that would be 'uniform, accessible for all, fair, and secure.' ... Absent a stay or a directive by the Secretary, there is a real concern that county boards of elections will begin issuing early in-person absentee voting schedules for the three-day period before the Secretary can issue a uniform schedule," Husted wrote.
The filing is the latest in a fight over early voting in one of 2012's closest battleground states. Obama for America had sued to restore three days of pre-Election Day voting after Ohio passed a 2011 law to curtail those days for everyone except members of the military.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit provided statistical evidence that cutting the last three days of voting, used by some 93,000 Ohio voters in 2008, would disproportionately affect low-income and minority voters. The defense did not offer evidence to dispute that.
BREAKING: Ohio Secretary Of State Backs Down, Allows Local Officials To Set Early Voting Hours
After previously trying to restrict early voting, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) today reversed course on his decision to block county boards of elections from setting their own early voting hours in the days leading up to the November election.
Last month, Husted and Ohio Republicans led an effort to limit early voting hours in Democratic counties, including those with major cities like Columbus and Cleveland, while expanding early voting in Republican counties. After the ensuing uproar, Husted moved to restrict voting hours across the state, only to have his cuts to early voting restored by a federal court.
Husted responded to the ruling by refusing to comply with the court order. Expanding voting hours, he claimed in Directive 2012-40, will “only serve to confuse voters.” Therefore, the directive read, he was “prohibit[ing] county boards of elections from determining hours for the Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday before the election.” The move led Judge Peter Economus to set a hearing for September 13: “The Court ORDERS that Defendant Secretary of State Jon Husted personally attend the hearing,” his release read.
Facing a direct court order, Husted has chosen instead to back down. This afternoon, Husted’s office released Directive 2012-42 with a brief message: “Directive 2012-40 is hereby rescinded.” As a result, county boards of elections will now be allowed to set their own hours, pending Husted’s appeal of the Obama for America v. Husted decision.
Husted also issued a formal apology to the court for Directive 2012-40. “The Secretary’s intention was not to create a stay of this Court’s Order,” the filing read. “The Secretary apologizes to the federal district court for creating that misimpression and has rescinded Directive 2012-40.”