When Ohio Secretary of State John Husted decided not to allow county boards of elections to mail out unsolicited absentee ballot request forms, he overturned a five-year-old policy that helped encourage over 1.1 million residents in the state to vote early. Last year, absentee voting was responsible for nearly a third of all ballots cast in the state.
The directive was ostensibly issued to promote “uniform” access to the polls, as not all counties chose to participate in the mailings. Early no-fault absentee voting was first instituted in 2006, a response to the long voting lines and confusing policies, such as moving polling locations on Election Day, that marked the 2000 and 2004 elections in Ohio -– a critical swing state that generally plays a powerful role in selecting the President.
Husted struck a deal on the directive after meeting with Cuyahoga County Executive Edward FitzGerald, who had called Husted’s plan for 2011 an “[attempt] at voter suppression.” Provisions of that deal: The directive for 2011 would remain in effect, but efforts for the 2012 election would get funds from the Help America Vote Act, designed to allow states to use federal money to ensure fair access to the polls. But this has not settled well with voting-rights advocates in Ohio.