A controversial new Ohio elections law was suspended on Thursday as a coalition of Democrats, voting-rights and labor groups submitted over 300,000 signatures to put the law on the fall 2012 ballot. That means the Nov. 8 election — and probably next year’s presidential election — will be run under the same early-voting laws that benefited Democrats in 2008.
The referendum effort is aimed at House Bill 194, a Republican-backed law that restricts early-voting opportunities and makes other changes that Democrats say amount to voter suppression. U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, a Warrensville Heights Democrat, said suspension of the law will increase turnout among the elderly, minorities, the needy and the disabled — all groups that tend to support Democrats.
“It could change the outcome of an election,” Fudge said at a Thursday news conference in Columbus to announce 318,460 petition signatures had been gathered. “It will make a difference by [HB 194] being on the 2012 ballot and not taking effect two days from now.”
The law will remain suspended during the presidential election as long as 231,147 of the signatures are verified. Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, said the verification process will not be completed before this fall’s election.