Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted Wednesday ordered that uniform voting hours be imposed throughout the counties, yielding to criticism that voting rules were uneven across the state.
But at the same time, the Republican set off a new stream of criticism from Democrats by announcing that traditional weekend voting would not be allowed after Oct. 2, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer
At a news conference Wednesday, Husted said all of the state’s 88 county elections boards must be open from Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the first three weeks of the 35-day early voting period and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the last two weeks, the newspaper reported.
"The bottom line is the antagonists have made an issue about the fact that voters aren't being treated fairly, that they aren't being treated the same," Husted said. "Today we're treating voters everywhere the same."
Early voting ends on Friday, Nov. 2 at 6 p.m., according to a new Ohio law that remains in place, although it still allows for military personnel to cast their ballots in person during the final three days before Election Day. The law is being challenged in federal court by the Obama campaign, which argues that the three-day early voting period should be opened to all potential voters and not just military personnel. Early voting was crucial for Democrats in the 2008 election.
"Each moment we get closer to Election Day, Republicans find more ways to chip away at the number of days and hours Ohio voters have access to the polls," Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern told the Plain Dealer.
State Democratic lawmakers also noted that 21 counties had already decided on early voting hours for weekends, which Husted’s order cancels. They said the new rule will make it more difficult for working people who must adhere to normal business hours during the week.
At his news conference, Husted also criticized his fellow Republicans who control the legislature for not addressing the voting matter head on, saying they helped bring controversy to the state, including a New York Times editorial slamming him. He also blamed partisan politics for the controversy.
But ending on a good note, Husted said the state for the first time would be sending out absentee ballots to all voters, a move that encourages more voting by mail.
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