LISBON - The Columbiana County Board of Elections, like other election boards across Ohio, is in a holding pattern on what hours, if any, they will be open on the weekend prior to the Nov. 6 election.
The subject came up at Thursday's board meeting after members asked where everything stood following a federal judge's decision overturning a state law ending early voting on the Friday before the Nov. 6 election. The judge ordered Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to issue a directive instructing election boards to open for the weekend.
"As things stand, they don't really stand," said elections board Director Adam Booth, who reported that Husted has yet to issue a directive. Meanwhile, the state is appealing the judge's ruling which could result in the ruling being overturned.
At issue is the early voting law. Before 2006, the only voters who could vote early by casting an absentee ballot were those who were going to be out of the county on election day or otherwise unavailable. The law was expanded that year to allow anyone to vote early if they so choose, and during the 2008 presidential election voters were allowed to vote early on the Saturday and Monday prior to the election.
A new state law ended early voting at 6 p.m. on the Friday before the election, which spawned the lawsuit by President Obama's campaign that resulted in the lawsuit.
Voters can begin casting early ballots on Oct. 2 and have until Nov. 2 to do so, and Husted has also ordered election boards be open longer hours during that period to accommodate early voting. Early voters can do so by mail or in person at the elections board office.
Booth said when they were open the weekend before the 2008 election it was only until noon on Saturday, and he does not know if Husted's eventual directive will also require they be open Sunday.
"I won't know until the secretary of state tells us what those hours will be," he said.
Booth views the law as impractical because it will require his staff of four spend the Monday before the election - when they are distributing polling place machines and materials to poll workers - to also spend time waiting on those who show up at the office to vote early.
It also means the voter registration books sent with poll workers that day will not be up to date, so a supplemental list of those who voted early on Monday will have to be prepared Monday night and given to poll workers.
Although early voting is set to begin Oct. 2, deputy Director Kim Meek reported they have received 2,900 applications to date from people wanting to vote by mail. Officials said this is in response to early-voting applications mailed last week by the state to every Ohio voter.