Dissatisfied that a statewide plan for early absentee voting includes no weekend hours, Democrats, labor leaders and voting rights groups on Thursday pressed for expansion of that schedule – and warned that the issue may ultimately be resolved in court. The day after Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted ordered all 88 county boards of elections to stay open for limited extra evening hours in October, about 150 people rallied outside the Hamilton County Board of Elections and later jammed a meeting room to demand even more hours, particularly on weekends. “What he did was equally disenfranchise voters,” senior citizen Patricia Youngblood said, drawing murmurs of approval from the impassioned, frustrated crowd.
Elections board chairman Tim Burke, who also heads the county Democratic Party, explained that Republican Husted’s directive ordering uniform hours statewide after early in-person absentee voting starts Oct. 2 left the board with no choice in the matter. But Burke added: “Some of us hope a federal court may yet have a word on voting hours. … I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s additional litigation on (Husted’s) decision.” Prior to Husted’s order late Wednesday, Thursday’s board hearing loomed as a potentially contentious showdown between the panel’s two Republicans and two Democrats over the voting hours issue, one likely to follow the political script seen in Ohio’s other major urban counties.