Tomorrow, a hearing in Ohio may determine whether or not voters can cast early ballots in the three days preceding the November election.
The current situation is in flux, with apparently non-uniform hours not only for military and non-military voters, but also across counties. I can see why Sec’y of State Husted is considering issuing a directive to standardize hours statewide and avoid a presidential election year controversy.
Nationwide, the period of early voting varies widely, particularly when you consider early in-person voting separately from by-mail absentee balloting. We have been collecting these periods nationwide for a number of years, and this year’s calendar (not in pretty graphic form yet) is provided here.
For absentee voting, many states have moved to a 45 day period, standardizing among UOCAVA and domestic ballots (exactly the opposite of what has happened in Ohio). The start of early in-person voting (depending on how you define it) is as early as September 21st and as late as October 27th.1
Two other interesting points regarding the Ohio situation. First, the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) surveys have shown that tracking UOCAVA voters is a error-prone process; a member of the military may not self-identify as a UOCAVA voter and could simply choose to vote like any other resident. How can Ohio possibly discriminate among the “known” UOCAVA voters and the “unknown” UOCAVA voters?
Second, just for context, the National Conference on State Legislatures reports that
Early voting typically ends just a few days before Election Day: on the Thursday before the election in three states, the Friday before in nine states, the Saturday before in five states, and the Monday before Election Day in 11 states.
Ending early voting on Friday puts Ohio in the lower half of states, but they are not alone in making that choice.
1 South Dakota, listed first in our early voting calendar, “shies away from using the term early in-person voting,” in our interview with the Secretary of States’s office. They do allow citizens to show up at county offices, request, and cast an absentee ballot all at once. Thus, we code this as early in-person voting, even though it is used by far less voters than the system in place in, say, Florida.