Advisory thwarts Referendum and Violates the U.S. Constitution
COLUMBUS- State Reps. Kathleen Clyde (D- Kent) and Ronald V. Gerberry (D- Austintown), Ranking Member on the State Government and Elections committee, held a press conference today amid the ongoing confusion surrounding the implementation of military voting bill, HB 224. Over the last month Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly contacted Secretary Husted informing him of their concerns, and asking him not to thwart the HB 194 referendum and to allow in-person early voting at county Boards of Elections through Monday, Nov. 7. Secretary Husted has refused these requests and ignored the concerns.
"House Bill 224 is obviously not clear on many points, yet it is being treated as a clear statement of the legislature's intention by the Secretary of State's office. We ask Secretary Husted to immediately rescind his Advisory 2011-7 and notify local Boards of Elections that they are to remain open for early voting through Monday, November 7," Rep. Clyde said. "If we sit by while executive office holders make the law, we are abdicating our duty as lawmakers and setting a dangerous precedent with respect to the separation of powers between the branches of government."
Secretary of State Jon Husted has ordered early voting to be cut off on Friday, Nov., 4. This means the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day, the three busiest days across the state, there will be no in-person early voting at local Boards of Elections. This is due to confusion between House Bill 194, which has been put on hold due to referendum, and House Bill 224. In cutting off early voting three days early, Secretary Husted is acting as a lawmaker and implementing parts of House Bill 224 that are impossible to implement due to the stay on House Bill 194.
"The attempt to implement this unreadable bill threatens people's right to Equal Protection under the U.S. Constitution. If Secretary of State Husted continues to require that in-person early voting end on Friday, he is opening up his office and local Boards of Elections to lawsuits," said Rep. Gerberry, Ranking Member on the State Government and Elections committee. "The voters of Ohio have spoken - they want a chance to vote on how Ohio conducts early voting and Secretary Husted should not take that choice away from them."
One of the most important problems with Secretary Husted's reading of House Bill 224 is that it violates the Equal Protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution. Secretary Husted's Advisory says early voting must end Friday for non-military voters only and that military voters shall be permitted to vote early through Monday, November 7. Neither House Bill 194 nor House Bill 224 intended to create two different early vote end dates. Reasonable accommodations for military/overseas voters can and should be made. However, for purposes of in-person early voting, both military and non-military voters are identically situated, and treating them differently in this circumstance violates the guarantee of Equal Protection of the laws.