Trial date set in Ohio dispute over early voting

ANN SANNER Associated Press Published:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- An August trial date has been set in a dispute over early voting in Ohio that goes back to the last presidential election.

President Barack Obama's re-election campaign and Democrats filed a lawsuit in July 2012 against the state's elections chief over an Ohio law that cuts off in-person, early voting for most residents three days before Election Day.

The two sides have been unable to resolve the litigation. This week, a federal court in Columbus set an Aug. 19 trial date.

The law, passed by the General Assembly in 2011, ends in-person voting on the Friday evening before a Tuesday election. But it allows an exception for military and overseas voters to cast a ballot in person until Monday. Democrats claimed that amounted to unequal treatment of voters and said everyone should have the chance to vote on the three days before Election Day.

U.S. District Judge Peter Economus agreed, and in an August 2012 temporary order, he allowed voting to occur on the final three days before the November election.

Ohio voters may cast an absentee ballot by mail or in person before Election Day without giving any reason.

For the past three years, Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, has pressed state lawmakers to put the hours and days for early voting into law. But the GOP-controlled Legislature has not adopted any plan.

In absence of legislative action, Husted set early voting times last month for the statewide elections this fall. He used a proposal from the bipartisan Ohio Association of Election Officials. Of the three days at issue in the lawsuit, voters can cast an early ballot only on the Saturday before the coming Nov. 4 election.

A spokeswoman for Husted said the office would like to see the lawsuit resolved before the election, so voters know the rules before voting.