COLUMBUS -- Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted has set early voting hours for the May primary and November general elections, with mostly weekday opportunities to cast ballots in person.
As promised, Husted stuck to the schedule recommended by bipartisan elections boards, via the Ohio Association of Election Officials.
For the May 6 primary, early voting will launch on April 1, with in-person voting generally offered from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekdays through May 2.
County elections officials will stay open until 9 p.m. on April 7, and early voting will be offered from 8 a.m.-noon on May 3, the final Saturday before Election Day.
A comparable schedule will be in place for the Nov. 4 general election, with weekday voting from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. starting on Oct. 7. Boards will be open for early voting from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. for two Saturdays -- Oct. 25 and Nov. 1.
Husted's directive includes no early voting on Sunday or on the Monday before Election Day. The directive takes into account legislation signed into law by Gov. John Kasich last week eliminating golden week, the period of time when Ohioans could register to vote and cast ballots on the same day.
"In 2014, absentee voters will have the option of voting in person for four weeks, or they can vote without ever leaving home by completing the absentee ballot request form we will be sending all voters," Husted said in a released statement. "Our goal is to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat and to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity in the voting process no matter which method they choose."
Husted has urged the Republican-controlled legislature to codify uniform hours for early voting in all of Ohio's 88 counties, but lawmakers have not yet acted on the issue.
"I have watched as numerous election laws have passed the general assembly and yet the bipartisan plan I have advocated for has neither been introduced nor adopted," Husted said. "We have a bipartisan solution in this proposal and it is time to implement it."
But Husted's directive is drawing criticism from Statehouse Democrats, who have been pushing for early voting on weekends and evenings.
"The courts have previously spoken on this, but once again, our current secretary of state is ignoring justice," Sen. Nina Turner (D-Cleveland), who hopes to unseat Husted in November, said in a released statement. "It is a shame that the secretary would not have committed his office's energy instead to implementing the outstanding court orders and administering the orderly and effective early voting process that has served Ohio voters so well since 2005."
State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) added, "Closing the polls stands in direct violation of state law, which dictates that the polls must remain open during the last three days of early voting. The legislature has not succeeded in any of its many attempts to cut off the end of early voting -- it ends on Monday before the election. End of story."