A federal judge blasted Ohio’s elections chief on Tuesday, questioning his motives for setting new vote-counting rules that violated state law just days before the presidential election. In a scathing 17-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley said a directive on counting provisional ballots that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted issued on Nov. 2 was “a flagrant violation of a state elections law” that could disenfranchise voters. “The surreptitious manner in which the secretary went about implementing this last minute change to the election rules casts serious doubt on his protestations of good faith,” Marbley wrote.
Husted fired back, saying through a spokesman late Tuesday that the judge’s ruling would allow potentially fraudulent votes to be counted. Husted will appeal the ruling.
Marbley noted numerous times that Husted, a Republican, set the new rules at 7 p.m. on a Friday. “Ohio voters reasonably expect that the secretary of Ohio will abide by the General Assembly’s laws in administering a federal election,” Marbley wrote. “For an executive of the state to (flout) state law in arbitrarily reassigning a poll worker’s statutory duty to a voter, with the result being disenfranchisement of the voter, is ‘fundamentally unfair and constitutionally impermissible.’”
Marbley, nominated to be federal judge by President Bill Clinton in 1997, has ruled on numerous issues regarding Ohio election laws in recent months. He has repeatedly stressed the importance of voting rights.
“There’s nothing more important than the franchise and the right to vote,” Marbley said during a hearing in June. “I grew up in the Jim Crow South and still remember the various mechanisms that were used to disenfranchise voters.”