Betsy Heer spent her birthday in November 2004 standing in a cold rain, waiting 10½ hours to vote. She’s runs a bed-and-breakfast in the tiny town of Gambier, Ohio. Many of the 1,300 people who joined her in line were students at Kenyon College. “So yeah, it was exhausting and it was exciting and it was frustrating and it was all those things. But it definitely was democracy in action.” And in nearly every election since, Heer has opted instead to vote early. The reason she can is an overhaul of Ohio’s early voting laws spurred by what one judge called the “disastrous” 2004 election. The changes helped make election days smooth. But they’ve also created cycle of laws and lawsuits that make courts in Ohio a big player in the national debate over voter access. “They know how to ski in Colorado, we know how to litigate elections in Ohio,” laughs Ned Foley, director of Ohio State University’s election-law program. He notes that the fights in Ohio include one that’s been dragging on for a decade. There are battles over rejected ballots and efforts to eliminate “Souls to the Polls” Sunday. Over purging voter rolls and eliminating same-day registration-and-voting.
“I led the effort to expand the voting period to 35 days,” he notes. Husted was speaker of the Ohio House in 2005. Facing a voter initiative to expand early voting, Republican lawmakers passed their own bill. You could vote for weeks before an election — and on some evenings and weekends. And during so-called “Golden Week,” you could register and vote at the same time.
“And I’m still a great supporter of early voting, and I believe as an administrator of elections it really helps us.” But, he says, that doesn’t mean the law is perfect and no changes should be made. And he maintains those changes should be made by state Legislatures, not federal courts.