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Saturday voting ends in county
Saturday voting ends in county
By JOSEPH KOZIOL JR.
Geauga County voters have been able to vote on Saturdays for decades, but that is coming to an end, which makes some election officials unhappy.
“I know what works here,” said Geauga County Elections Director Roberta Halford, who was voicing her opinion, not that of the board of elections. “Voters have been voting on Saturdays here for decades.”
Reacting to a recent directive by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, Mrs. Halford said she believes that if his directive for voting hours is adopted, voters who had relied on the convenience of Saturday hours may be left out in the cold.
The Geauga County Board of Elections voted Monday to follow the directive. Board member Janet Carson abstained from the vote.
Mr. Husted wrote in an Aug. 15 directive that allowing individual boards to decide their voting hours creates a piecemeal approach to voting hours across the state.
“Having local boards of elections establish voting hours ensures a level of local control that is reflective of local resources,” he wrote. “However, it also creates a patchwork of policies from one county to the next.”
In 2011, Mr. Husted urged state legislators to create uniform days and hours for in-person absentee voting across the state. A House bill, known as HB 194, was created, but suspended by referendum and later repealed by legislators.
“Absent a statutory mandate for uniformity, I urged boards of elections to find local compromise on days and hours during my summer regional elections conferences,” Mr. Husted wrote. “However, four tie votes have since come to my office on this matter. In each, I have resolved the controversy by setting voting hours to the board’s existing office hours to avoid having a state actor establish voting hours different in different counties, as was done in 2008.
“However, after talking with elections officials across the state, I have decided to level the playing field on voting days and hours during the absentee voting period in order to ensure that the presidential elections in Ohio will be uniform, accessible for all, fair and secure.”
Mr. Husted directed all county boards of elections to adopt the following hours of operation:
· 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 2-5
· 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 9
· 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 10-12
· 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 15-19
· 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 22-26
· 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 29-Nov. 1
· 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 2
He also directed that all boards of elections must be closed Oct. 8 in observance of a state holiday.
The directive immediately drew criticism from Chris Redfern, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman, who said it is another attempt to limit voters.
“Each moment we get closer to election day, Republicans find more ways to chip away at the number of days and hours Ohio voters have access to the polls,” he said in a prepared statement. “Now, Secretary of State Jon Husted has eliminated weekend voting and slashed hours across the entire state, taking away the right to 35 days of early voting that’s written into Ohio law. I’m deeply disappointed that Husted, the Republican legislature and Gov. Kasich have done everything they can to limit voting access, rather than help Ohioans exercise one of their most fundamental rights.”
Mrs. Halford, a Republican, said politics should have nothing to do with it. Her concern is all voters in the county.
While Mrs. Halford will follow whatever the Geauga County Board of Elections decides, she knows what has proved to work with county voters. With later voting hours in October, at a time of year when the sun sets earlier, voters may decide it is too inconvenient and choose not to vote.
“People won’t want to drive from Bainbridge or Troy in the dark,” she said.
Workers in the board of election office also do not get to leave immediately after the 7 p.m. closing time directed by Mr. Husted. They must stay to log in and secure the ballots, meaning workers likely will have to stay until around 9. “It’s not as simplistic as they make it sound,” Mrs. Halford said.
The directive to stay closed Monday before the election also is likely to keep some from voting. She said her office has had calls from voters who intended to vote at the polls for the Tuesday election, but had a last-minute emergency. They were able to come in Monday to cast a ballot.
Mrs. Halford said she does not care how Cuyahoga County or any other county conducts its elections, but knows Geauga voters after nearly a quarter century of working in the board of elections office.
The board always has opened its offices from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays to give voters every opportunity to participate in the democratic process. It also kept hours Saturday, Sunday and Monday just prior to the Tuesday election.
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