Think Progress is reporting that Ohio Secretary of State John Husted (R) has reversed his decision to continue to defy the federal court order restoring early voting to all Ohioans during the three days prior to the general election.
Last month, in a blatantly unconstitutional effort to suppress the Democratic vote, Husted and Ohio Republicans spearheaded an effort to limit voting hours in Democratic counties while expanding voting hours in Republican leaning counties. Amidst the resulting uproar, they backed down and applied the same restrictions across the board. However, a federal court agreed with the Obama campaign’s challenge, ruling that all voters were entitled to have access to early voting and restored the expanded hours. Judge Peter Economus wrote:
“A citizen has a constitutionally protected right to participate in elections on an equal basis with other citizens in the jurisdiction.” In Ohio, that right to participate equally has been abridged by Ohio Revised Code ‘ 3509.03 and the Ohio Secretary of State’s further interpretation of that statute with regard to in-person early voting. In 2005, Ohio expanded participation in absentee balloting and in-person early voting to include all registered Ohio voters. Now, “in-person early voting” has been redefined by the Ohio legislature to limit Plaintiffs’ access to the polls. This Court must determine whether preliminary injunctive relief should be granted to Plaintiffs on their claim that Ohio’s restriction of in-person early voting deprives them of their fundamental right to vote. Following Supreme Court precedent, this Court concludes that Plaintiffs have stated a constitutional claim that is likely to succeed on the merits. As a result—and as explained below—this Court grants Plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction.”
Husted refused to comply with the ruling and in Directive 2012-40 he stated that expanded voting “will only serve to confuse voters” and he prohibited the county boards of elections from determining hours for the Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday prior to the election. This action prompted a swift response from Judge Economus. He set a hearing for September 13, ordering Husted to appear in person before the court.
Confronted with the certainty that his effort would fail, Husted has chosen to back down and this afternoon his office released a brief statement: “Directive 2012-40 is hereby rescinded.”
Husted also issued a formal apology to the Court regarding Directive 2012-40: “The Secretary’s intention was not to create a stay of this Court’s order. The Secretary apologizes for creating that misimpression and has rescinded Directive 2012-40.”
A bitter pill to swallow that could have been avoided if only Republicans would learn that we have to play fair in order to achieve a more perfect union.