Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted will not rule on a dispute over Summit County’s early voting hours.
The issue will be resolved for the entire state with the outcome of a lawsuit in federal appeals court, Matt McClellan, a spokesman for Husted, said Thursday.
Ray Weber, a GOP member of the Summit County Board of Elections, walked out of a meeting Tuesday when a Democratic member proposed allowing in-person early voting on the weekend before the Nov. 6 election. The Democrat members then voted 2-0 in favor of the extended hours.
Alex Arshinkoff, the second Republican board member, was absent from the meeting. He remains hospitalized because of a recent car accident.
Weber had gotten up to leave but was still in the room when the vote on the hours was taken, which resulted in a question about whether the board had the required three-person quorum. The Summit County Prosecutor’s Office gave an opinion to the board that a quorum existed because Weber hadn’t left the room.
McClellan told a reporter that Husted’s office disagrees.
“While we believe there wasn’t a quorum there, it ultimately comes down to there was nothing prohibiting a board from voting on the three days before,” McClellan said Thursday. “We think early voting on the three days before [Nov. 6] will be determined by the appeals court or through guidance from our office.”
Obama’s camp sues
President Barack Obama’s campaign filed the federal lawsuit, arguing that in-person early voting in Ohio the weekend before the election, which the Republican-controlled legislature eliminated, should be restored. A federal judge sided with the campaign; the state is appealing.
Husted initially directed elections boards not to adopt weekend voting hours until the lawsuit is settled. He rescinded that directive after being ordered into federal court because of it.
The legislature voted to end in-person early voting at 6 p.m. on the Friday before the election.
Early voting in Ohio starts Tuesday. Husted is requiring boards to follow uniform in-person early voting hours through Nov. 2.
Tim Gorbach, a Democrat and the Summit board’s director, agreed that the court decision or a directive from Husted following the court’s ruling probably will determine the county’s early voting hours for the three days before the election, making the board’s vote — or nonvote — moot.
“It may be a short-lived victory,” he said.
The court case is on an expedited track and a decision is expected soon, though no one knows when it will be released, McClellan said.
Two Ohio counties, Jefferson and Wayne, have opted to set early voting hours for the last days before the election, though board officials realize those hours could change.
Wayne County is scheduled to have in-person early voting from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the Saturday and Monday before the election. It will not offer hours Sunday.
Summit’s hours would be from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 3, noon to 8 p.m. Nov. 4 and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 5.
Most boards are waiting for the outcome of the federal lawsuit — and direction from Husted — to determine weekend hours.
“We’re waiting to hear from the secretary of state,” said Carol Lawler, director of the Medina County elections board. “We feel he will be setting uniform voting hours.”
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmith. Read the Beacon Journal’s political blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/ohio-politics.