Last updated: September 06. 2013 3:44PM - 35 Views

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ANN SANNER

Associated Press

COLUMBUS — Democratic state lawmakers on Wednesday blasted Ohio’s new early voting hours, saying the times could create long lines in the presidential battleground state. But the state’s Republican elections chief says the hours are fair and will remain in place for the fall.

“The rules are set and are not going to change,” Secretary of State Jon Husted said in a statement.

Ohio is one of 32 states, plus the District of Columbia, that allow voters to cast an early ballot in person without having to give a reason.

Husted has ordered election boards in Ohio’s 88 counties to have the same early in-person voting hours on weekdays and have no hours on weekends. Before his directive, local election boards made up of two Republicans and two Democrats were setting their own hours.

Democrats argue not everyone will have the same access because the trimmed hours and days in the more populous counties will result in longer lines.

“Setting uniform hours treats all county boards the same, but it treats voters unequally and unfairly,” House Minority Leader Armond Budish said at a news conference Wednesday.

Counties with hundreds of thousands of voters shouldn’t be forced to hold the same hours as those with tens of thousands, Budish said.

Larger, urban counties — those that tend to be Democratic-leaning — have higher volumes of early voters, he said. And longer lines to vote early or on Election Day could lead people to walk away.

Budish and other Democrats urged Husted to permit weekend voting and allow counties to choose to opt out of it.

Husted has emphasized that people will have plenty of time to vote.

Absentee voting begins 35 days before Election Day, on Oct. 2. Husted’s office is distributing absentee voting applications to every registered voter statewide beginning early next month. About 7 million voters are expected to get an absentee ballot application this year, according to Husted’s office.

“This year with the combination of absentee ballots and early in-person voting, Ohioans will have more access to voting than ever before,” Husted said.

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