In Ohio, early voting restrictions face legal test
"The evidence is that the number of people who vote early climbs on a linear trend as the election day approaches. That's the reality of campaigns; that's the reality of voting; that's the reality of individual decision-making," said Paul Gronke, a professor at Reed College and director of the nonpartisan Early Voting Information Center (EVIC).
The Secretary of State's office disputes the notion that ending the early voting period on November 2 would tamp down turnout, pointing out that the voting period starts 35 days before the election and that absentee ballots are being mailed out to all voters, who may use them to vote even if they're not out of state.
"In Ohio it's very easy to vote," Husted told CBSNews.com. "Voters will have potentially more than 750 hours to cast a vote without ever leaving the comfort of their own home."
Husted asserted that due to logistical concerns associated with both early voting and Election Day efforts, keeping the polls open on the two or three days prior to November 6 is a practical impossibility.
"There needs to be a time period for the board to synchronize the voter rolls," he said. "We will have millions of absentee ballot requests. And on Tuesday morning you have these paper poll books that have to go out to the polls in 9,800 precincts around the state... If you're going to make it very easy in those previous 33 days to vote, you have to have some time at the end to synchronize your data."
Even if voters are equally as inclined to vote three days before an election and three weeks before it, however, which is unclear, Gronke argues that encouraging them to do so earlier in the cycle rather than later essentially invites people to vote with less information than they'd otherwise be privy to.
"You're encouraging people to vote before the last pieces of information have come in," Gronke said. "It's the presidential election. I think you want people to be as fully informed as possible."
A high-profile controversy
Debates over early voting regulations have been going on in a number of states across the country, but controversy surrounding the issue erupted on the national stage earlier this month when Romney targeted Democrats for bringing the lawsuit, which he suggested would strip military voters of their rights.
"President Obama's lawsuit claiming it is unconstitutional for Ohio to allow servicemen and women extended early voting privileges during the state's early voting period is an outrage," the former Massachusetts governor said in a statement last week. "The brave men and women of our military make tremendous sacrifices to protect and defend our freedoms, and we should do everything we can to protect their fundamental right to vote."
That charge was categorically debunked - a New York Times editorial decried it as "an extraordinary lie" - and the Obama campaign lambasted the Romney team for the false charge.
Amid the drama, the Secretary of State's office was fielding yet more complaints about regulations guiding how early voting is being conducted in the state: Democrats have charged in recent days that Republicans on local election boards are making a concerted effort to limit the hours that early voting stations are open in areas with Democratic advantages.
In Ohio, state law dictates that local election boards have the authority to determine the hours in which their early voting polls operate, and the Secretary of State serves as a tiebreaker for cases in which the boards are deadlocked on a decision. Husted has said that in those instances he will uniformly opt to limit voting to weekday business hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Jerid Kurtz, communications director of the Ohio Democratic Party, argues that Republicans in heavily Democratic districts are voting for those limited hours in an effort to depress Democratic votes, while those in Republican districts are voting for the more expansive hours.
"We're seeing a very transparent pattern here," Kurtz said. "This entire picture is coming together in a way that makes it look like Republicans in Ohio are trying to game the vote in any way they can."
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