UPDATE: Ohio Voters Gain Greater Access to Ballot in ACLU Settlement

CLEVELAND, OH – Today, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced new restrictive early in person voting hours for the 2014 primary and general elections, nearly eliminating all of the evening and Sunday hours that served voters and elections officials so well in past elections. The only weekend early voting hours will be from 8:00 a.m.-noon on the Saturday before Election Day in the primary election and 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. on the two Saturdays before the Election Day in the general election. The only weekday evening hours will be on the last day of voter registration in the primary election, but none in the general election. There will be no early in person voting the Sunday and Monday before either election.

“These cuts to early voting hours are unnecessary and will serve only to make voting harder for working Ohioans,” said ACLU of Ohio Director of Communications and Public Policy. Mike Brickner. “Coupled with the recent elimination of the first week of early voting, this week has been a terrible loss for voters. Weekend and evening hours for early in person voting have served Ohio well for years—why are we reversing course now?”

The recent cuts to early voting are not the first time officials have sought to curtail early in person voting. In 2012, Ohio legislators slashed evening and weekend early voting opportunities for everyone, including during the popular weekend before Election Day. The Obama campaign filed a lawsuit and a federal judge ordered the early voting hours be restored on the weekend before Election Day.

Instead, Secretary Husted ordered local boards of elections to ignore the judge’s order, a move that got him called into court to explain his behavior. Husted continued his court fight until October of 2012 until he was finally forced to back down and set uniform early voting hours that included evenings and weekends.

“It should be obvious to anyone watching that weekend and evening early voting hours are extremely popular and have been a resounding success in Ohio. Not only have they helped alleviate the long lines and Election Day problems of the past, many counties have been able to save money in staffing and equipment. Expanded early voting works, and we should build on that success, not tear it down,” said Brickner.

Early in-person voting is widely popular, especially among African Americans voters. On the weekend before Election Day, prominent pastors often organize “Souls to the Polls” programs, transporting parishioners directly from church to the polls on Sunday. Reports out of Ohio’s largest counties have shown that African Americans are the demographic most likely to use early in-person voting, especially on the weekends.

“It’s time to leave past bickering behind and look at the facts,” said Brickner. “Early voting is one of the best investments of time and resources that elections officials can make. It makes no sense to slash these opportunities.”