April 24, 2014

Medina
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Medina County Board of Elections asks for extended hours

MEDINA — The county Board of Elections agreed Monday to ask the Ohio secretary of state to reconsider his ban on weekend early voting.

The board voted unanimously to send a letter to Secretary of State John Husted requesting he modify last week’s directive ordering all counties have the same extended voting hours on weekdays to allow voting on Saturdays leading up to the Nov. 6 presidential election.

“I think it’s kind of Medina culture — people expect to be able to vote on those Saturdays,” Board of Elections Deputy Director Carol Gurney said.

Medina County permitted Saturday voting in the 2008 presidential election. And all four members of the county board — two Democrats and two Republicans — voted July 3 to include two Saturdays, Oct. 20 and Oct. 27 from 8 a.m. to noon, in this year’s early-voting schedule.

That plan was derailed last week when Husted excluded Saturday voting and ordered all 88 counties to have the same extended early voting days and hours. Early voting begins Oct. 2.

“I think he’s trying very much for fairness and uniformity, but I hope he’d be receptive from the boards of election because they know their trends of voting,” said Board of Election Director Carol Lawler, a Republican.

Those differing county voting trends are at the heart of what has become a national controversy that prompted Husted’s directive. Democrats have charged that Husted, a Republican, played favorites by limiting voting hours in counties that traditionally vote Democratic.

Earlier this year, the two Democratic members of the elections boards in the large urban counties of Summit, Cuyahoga, Franklin and Lucas voted to have extended evening or weekend hours for early voters. But the two Republicans in those traditionally Democratic counties all voted no.

In each case, Husted stepped in to break the ties by siding with the Republicans, meaning no extended or weekend hours in those counties, which include the cities of Akron, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo.

In contrast, Medina County and a number of other traditionally Republican counties, including Butler and Warren, voted unanimously to have extended voting hours.

In the 2008 presidential election, GOP candidate John McCain took 53.3 percent of the vote.

Elections officials said 7.6 percent of the people who voted early in-person cast their ballots on the two Saturdays the board office was open.

Gurney, a Democrat, said not having Saturday voting would be “a shame.”

“For the working person, Saturday is the day they’ll be able to vote,” she said.

Gurney didn’t hold out much hope of changing Husted’s mind.

“I think we’ll get acknowledgment and they’ll take it under consideration,” Gurney said. “I’m not sure it’ll change anything.”

All four board members, as well as Gurney and Lawler, stressed at the meeting that the letter was a respectful request for reconsideration.

The situation in Dayton’s Montgomery County is more heated. There, two Democratic members of elections board could lose their job after they voted to extend early voting hours to some Saturdays and Sundays, according to The Associated Press.

Their proposal was largely symbolic because the two Republican members voted against the plan. Husted moved quickly Friday to break the tie by siding with the GOP members.

But Husted went further, suspending the two Democrats, Thomas Ritchie Sr. and Dennis Lieberman, for failing to act consistently with his earlier directive.

After appearing at Husted’s office Monday for a hearing on the matter, an administrative hearing officer said he will make a decision by the end of the week on whether Ritchie and Lieberman will keep their jobs, according to the AP.

Contact Michelle Sprehe at (330) 721-4048 or msprehe@medina-gazette.com.