From the start of this election cycle, Jon Husted urged bipartisan county elections boards to reach compromises in setting hours for early voting. If they did not reach an agreement? The secretary of state emphasized that he would set the time to the board’s current office hours. The stance reflected his campaign promise. He wants — for good reason — a more uniform system of voting across the state. He didn’t want his office establishing varying hours in different counties.
The trouble is, that position gave rise to a mess, or at least disturbing discrepancies. In some Republican-leaning counties, compromise was achieved, and early voting hours were extended. In Summit, Cuyahoga, Lucas and Franklin, heavily Democratic counties, Husted broke ties, and thus the fallout: They would not have extended hours.
Democrats rightly cried foul. On Wednesday, the secretary erased the difference. He took the correct step of issuing a directive establishing uniform hours for early voting in Ohio — weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the first three weeks, then 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the final two weeks.
That has not pleased everyone, some counties having to shrink their hours. A strong case still exists for permitting early voting on weekends, especially the weekend before the election, which Republican legislators ended. Recall why early voting took hold the past decade. In 2004, many Ohio voters experienced long lines at the polls. A consensus reasonably formed: Voting shouldn’t be such a burden. It should be encouraged and made easier. In 2008, Ohioans took advantage of early voting, the election proceeding smoothly.
The Obama campaign has gone to federal court seeking to restore early voting on the three days before the election. The task shouldn’t have to be so hard. Ohio benefited from allowing such early voting. It long ago should have been sustained.
All that said, Ohioans should know that voting still is much more convenient than eight years ago. As the secretary of state points out, Michigan, Kentucky and Pennsylvania do not have early voting. For the first time ever, an application for an absentee ballot will be sent to every voter. Though the process has multiple steps (see editorial below), you can vote without leaving home.
More, Ohio appears ready for this election, again in its role of presidential battleground. A recent analysis by Common Cause, the Rutgers law school and the Verified Vote Foundation rated Ohio among the six states most prepared. A battle to make voting more convenient is well worth fighting. Of even higher priority is making preparations and actually voting. Jon Husted has leveled the field for early voting hours. Nothing in Ohio is so onerous that it should get in the way of casting your ballot, early or on Election Day.