Early voting starts here Oct. 12; no ‘golden week’

By Gary Abernathy - [email protected]

The deadline to register to vote in the November 8 election is Oct. 11, and early in-person voting starts the following day.

This year, Ohio’s “golden week” is no longer in effect as it was in 2008 and 2012, when people could register and vote at the same time. In a decision on Sept. 13, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to restore the extra week of early voting in Ohio, a decision denounced by Democrats but praised by the state’s Republican elections chief.

Debbie Craycraft, director of the Highland County Board of Elections, said Wednesday that her office is gearing up for the election. She said letters were sent this week to previous poll workers, and several new people have expressed an interest in working at the polls. She said she believes there are sufficient numbers of poll workers, but anyone interested in helping at the polls should contact her office.

Craycraft also reminded voters about a free smart phone app that is capable for answering a number of questions and helping people verify information about voting and elections in Highland County.

The app can be found by searching a mobile app store for TRIAD Governmental Systems Inc. and then downloading the “Ohio Voter Info” app and finding Highland County in the drop-down menu. The application “has been designed to assist Ohio registered voters find their polling location and other election related material by county,” according to an online description from iTunes.

Craycraft said there are no changes in polling places this election.

Early in-person voting begins Wednesday, Oct. 12 at the election board office in Suite 200 at the Hi-Tec Center, 1575 N. High St. in Hillsboro. Hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday for the first two weeks, with Saturday and Sunday hours added beginning Oct. 29. Votes can also be cast in person on Monday, Nov. 7 – the day before Election Day – from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. The complete schedule can be found at www.highlandcountyelections.com.

Eligible citizens can register to vote through Oct. 11 at a number of locations, including the election board office, the office of the registrar or any deputy registrar of the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, public libraries, public high schools or vocational schools, the county treasurer’s office, or the offices of a number of designated state agencies.

A lower court decision from last month upheld a law eliminating days in which people could register and vote at the same time in Ohio, a period known as golden week.

Democrats had claimed the reduction, along with other voting changes, disproportionately burdened black voters and those who lean Democratic. But the state’s attorneys argued that scrapping the days helped alleviate administrative burdens for local elections officials while reducing costs and the potential of fraud.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, said the high court ruling makes clear the state’s laws are fair and constitutional.

“Ohioans want an efficient and secure election and it is time for these wasteful lawsuits to end,” Husted said in a statement when the ruling was announced.

Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Pepper expressed his disappointment with the court’s rejection.

“Ohio Republicans can keep trying to make it harder for people to vote, but we will continue to fight them at every turn,” Pepper said in a statement.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled in August that the golden-week cut still allows for “abundant” opportunities to vote within a 29-day early voting window. Prior to the law, Ohioans had a 35-day period.

The Supreme Court denied the Democrats’ request to put that decision on hold while they appealed.

Democrats had faced long odds in their request to the high court.

The Supreme Court justices recently divided 4-4 in a move to reinstate North Carolina’s voter identification requirement. The split illustrated how closely divided the court is on voting rights.

In May, U.S. District Judge Michael Watson had sided with Democrats on their golden-week claim, finding that the reduction violated the Voting Rights Act and voters’ equal protection rights.

Watson, an appointee of Republican President George W. Bush, had said evidence presented in the case reflected that black voters use same-day voter registration and early voting options at higher rates than whites. While the court can’t predict how African-Americans will turn out in future elections, he said, “It is reasonable to conclude from this evidence that their right to vote will be modestly burdened” by the law.

More than 60,000 people voted during golden week in 2008, while over 80,000 cast ballots during the period in 2012, according to court documents.

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456. The Associated Press contributed to this story.


By Gary Abernathy

[email protected]