Extended hours on nights and weekends that made it easier for nearly 9,000 voters to cast early ballots in the 2008 presidential race at the Hamilton County Board of Elections may not be repeated this year because of Republican opposition. Across Ohio, that is part of a developing pattern in which extra pre-election voting hours may be denied to voters in large urban counties – most of which traditionally vote Democratic – even as extended hours will be available in some smaller counties with a strong Republican slant. The issue has emerged amid continuing questions over provisional ballots – cast when there are questions over a voter’s registration, and the source of controversy in past elections – and the Ohio legislature’s failure over the past four years to amend the state’s voting laws to address problems.
A showdown over the extra voting hours is expected at the Hamilton County Board of Elections next week. If the debate plays out as it has in Ohio’s other major urban counties, it likely will result in a 2-2 tie vote by board members, with Democrats in favor of extending voting hours and Republicans opposed. That would place the question before Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican who over the past several weeks has consistently sided with GOP elections board members elsewhere in casting tie-breaking votes against extending voting hours during the weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election.