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Uniform early voting hours established in Ohio


COLUMBUS — Ohio voters who want to cast an early ballot in person before Election Day will get new hours to do so under a schedule set Tuesday by the state’s election chief following a recent federal order.

Secretary of State Jon Husted directed Ohio’s 88 county elections boards to be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday; and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday for upcoming major contests, including the Nov. 4 election.

That means voters in the battleground state will get a total of 18 hours to vote in person over the final three days before presidential primaries and presidential and gubernatorial general elections.

Under Husted’s previous schedule for this November, residents could not have voted on the Sunday and Monday before Election Day.

The new times come after a federal ruling in a 2012 lawsuit filed against Husted by Democrats and President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

In the June 11 decision, U.S. District Judge Peter Economus ordered the Republican secretary of state “to set uniform and suitable in-person early voting hours for all eligible voters for the three days preceding all future elections.”

At issue in the case was a 2011 state law that cut off in-person, early voting for most residents three days before Election Day, but allowed an exception for military and overseas voters to cast a ballot in person until Monday. Democrats claimed that arrangement amounted to unequal treatment of voters, and said everyone should have the chance to vote on the three days before Election Day.

The judge issued a temporary order in August 2012 that allowed voting to occur on the final three days before the November presidential election. With the case still pending, Husted in February set a voting schedule for this year’s elections with hours that included only the Saturday before Election Day.

The federal judge issued the permanent injunction last week, barring the state’s top election official from enforcing Friday as the close of early voting and requiring hours be set for the three days.

In announcing the new times, Husted said Tuesday that he considers the matter settled.

“It is my sincere hope that in the future Republicans and Democrats can work together to put voters first and avoid these kinds of controversies,” he said in a written statement.

Husted also issued early voting hours for municipal, primary and special elections.

His Democratic challenger criticized the new schedule as not going far enough. State Sen. Nina Turner of Cleveland said it “fails to provide for evening early voting hours that working Ohioans need this cycle.”

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