Ohio Early Voting Laws and “Voter Suppression”

Ohio elections calendars

Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) leaders and their allies in the labor union and abortion movements are attacking early voting limits enacted last month by Republicans, continuing a 2012 campaign theme decrying “voter suppression.”

Ohio has extremely permissive absentee voting policies. This is what the state’s in-person voting calendar looked like in 2005:


In 2006, a law backed by Republican members of the 126th General Assembly and signed by Republican Governor Bob Taft struck a list of absentee voting eligibility requirements from Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 3509.02.

This made it possible for registered voters to vote by mail or in person at their local board of elections starting “on the thirty-fifth day before the day of the election” without declaring a religious, medical, work, or travel-related cause for their absence on election day.

Because local elections boards could choose whether to extend their hours during the absentee voting period, the law resulted in unequal ballot access. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) attempted to remedy this in 2012, but was blocked by a lawsuit filed by ODP and Obama for America demanding in-person voting the three days before the election.

With the Democrats victorious against what they deemed a racist attempt to disenfranchise voters — and with Husted’s office mailing absentee ballot applications to every registered voter — this is what Ohio’s in-person voting calendar looked like in 2012:


Some counties also held weekend voting in October, in defiance of Husted’s directive setting a uniform statewide schedule.

Senate Bill 238 (SB 238), signed into law by Republican Governor John Kasich last month, ends the so-called “golden week” when individuals could register to vote and submit an absentee ballot the same day. Under SB 238, ballots will be available “the first day after the close of voter registration before the election.”

A February 25 directive from Secretary of State Husted sets uniform early voting hours throughout Ohio, limiting early voting to extended weekday hours in the four weeks leading up to the election, plus the two Saturdays before election day.

SB 238 and Husted’s Directive 2014-06 — which was based on recommendations from the Ohio Association of Elections Officials — will result in the following in-person voting calendar for the November 2014 election:


Consider this year’s 21 days of in-person voting in contrast to the 1 day of in-person voting most Ohioans took for granted less than a decade ago.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, none of the five states neighboring Ohio allow early in-person voting without cause. Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky allow absentee voting only by mail, and only when the elector meets specific requirements for voting absentee.

Meanwhile, Husted is against requiring a photo ID to vote and has been sued for what two conservative groups viewed as inadequate pruning of the state’s voter rolls, but that hasn’t stopped Democrats led by MSNBC darling Sen. Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) from calling Husted the “Secretary of Suppression” and bemoaning his support for “voter suppression bills.”

In fundraising calls for her own secretary of state campaign, Sen. Turner has attacked Husted for backing “the GOP’s Tea Party, extremist agenda.”

During the reporting period that ended January 31, Turner’s top individual donor was a board member of Planned Parenthood and NARAL who has funded the construction of abortion clinics in California.