Ohio Secretary of State Sued Over Weekend Voting Curbs

Ohio’s Republican secretary of state was sued by his Democratic predecessor over a directive that makes early-voting hours uniform in all 88 of the state’s counties in part by eliminating weekend balloting.

Secretary of State Jon Husted issued the order Aug. 15. Former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, together with the advocacy group Fair Elections Ohio and a voters’ referendum committee, claimed Husted violated their constitutional rights in a complaint filed today in federal court in Columbus.

Husted’s action revived portions of a repealed Ohio law, effectively reinstating parts of the statute that curbed or eliminated weekend early voting, the plaintiffs said. They seek a declaratory judgment that the directive and other actions are unconstitutional. Husted set uniform hours for in-person absentee voting after the Ohio Democratic Party said times were being expanded mostly in Republican-leaning counties.

Ohio holds 18 of the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the U.S. presidency. No Republican has ever won that office without winning Ohio. President Barack Obama carried the state in 2008 with 51.5 percent of the vote.

Husted’s order came hours after a federal judge heard arguments in a separate case brought by Obama’s campaign challenging Ohio laws enabling military and overseas voters to cast early-voter ballots through Nov. 5, while ending early voting for other Ohioans Nov. 2. Election Day is Nov. 6.

Matthew McClellan, a spokesman for Husted, criticized the new lawsuit for attacking a measure promoting uniformity, which the Obama campaign had sought in its complaint.

“They are contradicting themselves and grasping at straws, while we are focused on making it easy to vote and providing for a fair, uniform and secure election,” he said.

The new case is Fair Elections Ohio v. Husted, 12-cv-00763, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio (Columbus). The earlier case is Obama for America v. Husted, 12-cv-636, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio (Columbus).

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew Harris in Chicago federal court at aharris16@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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