Ohio Elections Chief Ordered to Show at Hearing
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – A federal judge in Ohio ordered the state’s elections chief on Wednesday to appear at a court hearing scheduled for next week on the swing state’s early voting rules.
The order comes after attorneys for President Barack Obama’s campaign urged the judge in court filings earlier Wednesday to enforce his ruling that gives all voters the option of casting their ballot in person during the three days before Election Day.
Ohio is among 32 states, plus the District of Columbia, that allow voters to cast early ballots in person without having to give reasons.
U.S. District Judge Peter Economus in Columbus has scheduled a hearing for Sept. 13 on the Obama campaign’s motion and ordered Secretary of State Jon Husted to show up.
At issue is a part of the state’s law that cuts off early voting for most residents on the Friday evening before a Tuesday election. The law makes an exception for military personnel and Ohio voters living overseas.
Economus issued a ruling last week, concluding that the state’s law was unconstitutional in changing the in-person early voting deadline and that the state was wrongly valuing certain votes above others.
The judge’s ruling said he expects Husted to direct all county elections boards to maintain a specific, consistent schedule on those three days “in keeping with his earlier directive that only by doing so can he ensure that Ohio’s election process is ‘uniform, accessible for all, fair, and secure.'”
Ohio’s attorney general is appealing the decision to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
Husted, a Republican, told county officials on Tuesday not to set any in-person voting hours during those final days because of the state’s appeal.
He issued a directive to the state’s 88 county boards, saying they were “strictly prohibited” from determining hours for the Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday before the election because a court could later change them.
Husted has said he’s confident there will be enough time for him at the conclusion of the appeals process to set hours on the final days before the Nov. 6 election.
Obama campaign attorneys said in their court filing that Husted didn’t show a legal basis for his directive, and he should abide by the court’s ruling unless it’s reversed.
Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office said it’s reviewing the Obama campaign’s motion.
Husted spokesman Matt McClellan said the secretary of state issued the directive to provide guidance to local election officials following last week’s ruling. He said Husted wants to avoid a situation where boards were setting different hours.
“Secretary Husted believes he was complying with the judge’s decision,” McClellan said. “If the judge thinks differently our office will rescind the directive immediately.”