Republican secretary of state, John Husted, announced a new standard early voting policy for Ohio on Wednesday. The new rule extends early voting hours beyond what they had been in some counties, though state law still bars any in person voting on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day.
"Ohio traditionally makes their voting hours, or sets their standards, by county to county," said Husted on Thursday's Jansing & Co. "That had become controversial, because some counties that tended to lean Republican were extending hours where some Democratic counties were not able to do that. That was a controversy we didn't need. I have been a champion of uniformity, and so I thought it was important that we set that standard very early—that we set uniform hour across the state."
MSNBC's Richard Lui pressed Husted on weekend voting, saying, "People might say, disproportionately, this is affecting minorities." He cited reporting from the Columbus Dispatch, saying African Americans made up a disproportionately high number of early in person voters in 2008. One reason for that was the nationwide "Souls to the Polls" initiative, which encouraged black churches to bring congregants from Sunday services straight to the polls. This year in Ohio, Souls to the Polls would be impossible under the new rule.
Husted said there was nothing he could do about that. "That's out of my hands," he said. "That's in state. That's been changed. We've been operating under those rules." When asked if he thought early voting should be allowed on that weekend, he said that the polls needed to be closed for at least one or two of those days.
"They can be open part of that time," he said. "But here's the issue. We have an expansive early voting period. The local boards of elections need time to synchronize the voting rules, so that when they take the books out to the polls on Tuesday morning, that they know everybody who's voted early—everybody that's requested an early ballot—so that you can't vote twice, so that the integrity of the system's intact. They need some time over that last three days to synchronize those rules. Whether that's three days, two days, one day, that's open for debate. The legislature needs to settle that issue."
The state law Husted referred to allows for one exception: military voters are still permitted to vote during the three days running up to the election. The Obama campaign is currently suing in federal court to extend that same privilege to everybody.