Staff and wire reports
Medina County — along with the rest of Ohio — will see early voting on the last weekend and Monday before the Nov. 6 presidential election after the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday let stand a lower court ruling striking down a state law that cut off voting.
“We’re pleased there will be Saturday voting,” said Donald L. Baker, a Democrat and chairman of the Medina County Board of Elections. “And we’re interested to see how many people we have for Sunday voting.”
The Medina County Board of Elections — two Democrats and two Republicans — voted unanimously this summer to schedule voting hours for the last two Saturdays in October to accommodate the new state law that prohibited voting on the last weekend before the elections.
But that plan was derailed in August when Secretary of State Jon Husted prohibited all weekend voting in a directive mandating uniform voting hours in all 88 Ohio counties.
Democrats charged Husted’s order and the state law cutting off early voting were part of a Republican attempt to hold down voter turnout in the bitterly contested presidential contest.
The controversy entered the courtroom when President Barack Obama’s campaign and Ohio Democrats sued state officials over the state law.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Columbus, cited a recent study saying nearly 105,000 people voted in the three days before the election in 2008, and they argued everyone should have the chance to vote on those days. They also said eliminating the opportunity for most Ohio residents to vote in person on those days while making an exception for military or overseas voters wasn’t fair.
On Oct. 5, a federal appeals court in Cincinnati upheld the district court ruling reinstating voting on the weekend and Monday before the election and returned discretion to set hours on those days to local boards of elections.
Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine appealed the decision to the Supreme Court last week. But the high court in a one-sentence ruling allowed the lower court’s ruling to stand.
About an hour after the high court’s decision, Husted ordered uniform hours across the state for all three days: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3; 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4; and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5.
“We’re happy to be able to offer weekend hours — especially for Saturday,” said Carol Lawler, Medina County’s elections director and a Republican. “I think Saturday was the biggest thing we wanted.”
Lawler said the board changed the website and printed notices as soon as it received Husted’s directive on Tuesday.
Ohio is among 34 states, plus the District of Columbia, where citizens can vote early without giving a reason.
Democrats estimated in the lawsuit that 93,000 people voted statewide during the disputed days in the 2008 elections.
More than 2,600 of those votes came from Medina County.