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Ohio cuts early voting hours, days

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio voters will get two Saturdays but no Sundays or evenings to cast early, in-person ballots during the statewide election this fall under a schedule set this week by the state’s elections chief.

Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, said his directive for voting times reflects a proposal from the bipartisan Ohio Association of Election Officials. He has pressed state lawmakers for the past three years to put the hours and days for early voting into law, but the GOP-controlled Legislature has not adopted any plan.

“I have watched as numerous election laws have passed the General Assembly and yet the bipartisan plan I have advocated for has neither been introduced nor adopted,” Husted said in a statement.

Lacking legislation, Husted said he used the blueprint hours from the Republicans and Democrats who run local elections in Ohio’s 88 counties.

For the general election, local boards would not be open for in-person, early voting after 5 p.m. on weekdays and would be closed on Sundays – a change from previous years.

Husted’s directive drew criticism from the Democratic candidate who is vying for his job this November, state Sen. Nina Turner of Cleveland.

Turner said elections officials need flexibility to set times that work for their voters, not “one-size-fits-all solutions.”

“There is no justification for arbitrarily denying the vast majority of Ohio voters’ access to open polling places,” Turner said in a statement.

The 2012 presidential election cycle in Ohio was marked by several disputes over early voting rules, including a lawsuit brought by President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

Residents of the swing state can cast an absentee ballot by mail or in person without giving any reason. Almost 1.9 million Ohioans voted using an absentee ballot in the 2012 election, a record number for the state.

Husted said his office plans to send absentee ballot application forms to all registered voters again this year, as they did in the 2012 contest.

Voters can expect to see other changes to election rules this year.

Republican Gov. John Kasich recently signed into law a bill to eliminate the so-called golden week, a period when residents can both register to vote and cast an early ballot.

State lawmakers have been weighing other adjustments to Ohio’s election law, including a proposal that specifies when provisional ballots should be counted.

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