Last week a Republican-controlled legislature in Ohio, under the leadership of Secretary of State Jon Husted, drastically reduced early voting days and early voting hours in urban counties that included racially diverse cities such as Akron, Cleveland, Cincinnati or Columbus. Simultaneously, early voting hours were expanded in heavily Republican counties.
Under public pressure, referring to the public outcry as "political hysteria," Husted later retracted his approval and has now called for uniform voting hours across the state. His new mandate states that all election offices are to be open during business hours and evening hours are expanded during the week. However, the ban on weekend early voting hours remains, even though they were heavily utilized in the 2008 election. Opening the polls on Saturdays and Sundays in 2008 enabled Black and low-income Ohioans to vote in record numbers.
The elimination of weekend early voting is a clear attempt to limit Black voters' and other urban dwellers' access to the polls. In Cuyahoga County, one of the areas that will be most impacted by Husted’s restrictions, Black folks were 28% of the population and 56% of early voters in 2008. In Franklin County (which includes the city of Columbus, OH) 82% of early voters cast their ballots after work hours and on the weekends.