How Ohio’s Early Voting Rules Discriminate Against City Dwellers

By now, space aliens have heard about the importance of Ohio in today’s presidential election. Statistical wizard Nate Silver estimates this swingiest of swing states has a 50 percent chance of deciding the election.

Some voters in Cincinnati's Hamilton County waited more than four hours to cast an early ballot this weekend. Rural voters had shorter waits. Photo: Urban Cincy

Adding to the drama: Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has twice acted to restrict early voting and voting rights, including a new order, issued Friday, regarding the handling of provisional ballots that won’t be adjudicated until tomorrow. Thanks to a federal court ruling, limited early voting went forward around the state last weekend. But even that represented a vast reduction in the time allotted for early voting compared to the last presidential election.

Now, Randy Simes at Urban Cincy reports that the way early voting was carried out is inherently biased against city residents.

According to the Hamilton County Board of Elections, 564,429 people have been registered to vote in Hamilton County – a number slightly higher than that in 2008. The difference between 564,429 voters in 2012, however, is that their early voting days have been greatly reduced.

On top of the reduced number of days to vote early, voters across Ohio are only allowed to cast an early vote at one location per county. This means that voters in heavily populated counties with big cities are subjected to longer waits. So far, voters in Hamilton County have reported up to 4.5-hour-long waits downtown.

Not only do politicians in Washington D.C. rarely talk about cities, which include the vast majority of Americans, but the fact that a segment of those politicians are actively working to reduce the ability of urban voters to vote is truly disgusting.

While it is too late to change anything for this election, we would like to see the administration of Governor Kasich (R) move quickly to expand early voting for future elections, and expand the number of voting locations in each county based on population totals.

Contrary to some popular perceptions, Ohio is a very urban state; 78 percent of the state’s residents live in urbanized areas, including major cities like Columbus and Cleveland, as well as their suburbs.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Human Transit holds up New York City’s post-Sandy bus service as an example of how bus rapid transit can be instantly established using orange cones in the case of disaster. The Political Environment reports that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s last minute refusal of passenger rail money has resulted in a $45 million lawsuit against the state. And the Overhead Wire carries a thorough roundup of every transportation initiative on ballots around the country this election day.