A group of Dayton-area residents are holding an event Wednesday to protest state legislation they say limits voting rights.
One bill signed into law by Governor John Kasich last week curtails early voting days, and the other prohibits county boards of elections from mailing out absentee ballots on their own, and requires legislative approval for mailings by the Secretary of State. The early voting law eliminates what’s known as the “Golden Week,” during which voters have been able to both register and cast early ballots at the same time.
Heather Atkinson with the IUE-CWA says she’s concerned about how the new rules will affect working people in Montgomery County.
“We find that folks work schedules are not always that flexible, and instead of having to wait until election day when potentially there can be long lines, folks like to be able to take advantage of early voting and also voting by mail,” she says.
Voting rights and access have been a highly partisan hot button in Ohio for years, with Democrats accusing Republicans of attempting to curtail votes in more urban districts. Republican supporters of the new laws have argued that Ohio’s early voting remains open longer than most states, and say the ballot mailing rules would create consistency across the state. Democrats have threatened to sue over the laws.
In 2012 in Montgomery County, nearly 30,000 people cast early votes in person, and about another 50,000 mailed in absentee ballots.
The plot thickened on Tuesday when Ohio Secretary of State John Husted announced early voting hours throughout the state for the coming May and November elections; the matter of voting hours has caused flare-ups among elections officials and legislators in the past.
Husted says he simply enacted a bipartisan proposal from the Ohio Association of Elected Officials (OAEO).
Statewide hours will be limited to one weekend day before each election, and on most days early voting will close at 5 p.m. In the past, early voting in Ohio has included the entire weekend before an election.
"What I did today was issue a directive putting that in place in all 88 counties, so that everybody will be treated the same across the state, that they will be treated fairly and equitably, and that we can put aside some of the controversies that occurred in the past over that schedule of voting." Husted said.
The Montgomery County Board of Elections, which attempted to extend early voting hours for the county in 2012, was not available to give a comment in time for this story.