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Will Early Voting Cuts in Ohio Impact Election Turnout?

PHOTO: Some voting-rights activists are voicing concerns that restrictions to early voting in Ohio will impact the turnout at the polls for today's general election. Photo credit: Ohio Secretary of State's office.
PHOTO: Some voting-rights activists are voicing concerns that restrictions to early voting in Ohio will impact the turnout at the polls for today's general election. Photo credit: Ohio Secretary of State's office.
November 4, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio - It's been a bit of a bumpy road for voters in Ohio heading into today's election, after the U.S. Supreme Court delayed the start of early voting just one day before it was scheduled to begin.

Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters of the United States, says the changes have led to some confusion among voters. She's spent the last two days in the Buckeye State meeting with election leaders and discussing the impact of recent voter restrictions.

"Our only interest is making sure voters have an opportunity to make the decisions here in Ohio and all across the country," she says. "It should not be about politicians picking their voters. It should be about voters picking their elected officials."

Earlier this year, Governor John Kasich signed a law aimed at reducing voter fraud that resulted in restrictions on evening and weekend hours for early voting, and the elimination of "Golden Week," an opportunity to register to vote and vote early on the same day. MacNamara and others have voiced concerns that the cuts to early voting have led to confusion and will result in fewer voters casting a ballot.

Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Lawheads the Law, says cuts to early voting especially impact the minority vote. She cites the committee's study of voters in the 2008 election, which found African-American voters used early-voting hours 25 times more than white voters.

"That's an incredible phenomenon," says Arnwine. "We've looked at it across the country and it appears to be consistent that African-American voters like to vote early. It may be because so many people work and it's hard to get the day off on Election Day."

MacNamara says they will continue their work to ensure voting is free, fair and accessible for all eligible voters. And she encourages Ohioans who have not yet cast a ballot to do so today.

"This is an important election," she says. "You're making decisions that are going to impact jobs, the economy, and your health care not just at the state level, but at the local level too. It's extremely important to make sure you get out there and vote."

Besides local ballot issues and candidates, Ohioans will select a governor, secretary of state and attorney general. Polls are open until 7:30 p.m.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH