Local party leaders debate merits of early voting

Early voting in Mahoning

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Mahoning County Democratic Party Chair Dave Betras surrounded himself with local officeholders and others Tuesday morning to complain about last week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to reduce the period allowed for in-person early voting in Ohio by one week.

Early voting began Tuesday instead of Sept. 30.

Betras suggested the issue comes down to Republican leaders, including both Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Secretary of State Jon Husted, trying to make it more difficult for Democrats to get to the polls.

“The African American community does not like the fact that a Sunday was taken away. Who does that Sunday vote affect? It affects African American voters. Who do African American voters support? Democrats. It is clear to me what the Republicans and their strategies are doing. That is suppressing the Democrat vote,” Betras said.

But when Betras and several of his supporters were asked how much more time should be allowed for early voting, no one was able to give any specifics, other than to say the process should be as accessible as possible.

But GOP state central committee member Tracey Winbush disagreed.

“There is no way African Americans are equal with everyone else. And we don’t make laws for special people. We make laws for all,” Winbush said.

The ruling by the high court in Washington last week gives voters 28 days to cast their ballots early, either in person or by mail, or else vote at their regular polling places on Nov. 4.

Many of those showing up Tuesday at the Mahoning County Board of Elections see the extra 28 days to cast ballots as an added convenience.

“I just recently moved and I had to get a new precinct and I was down here to get a title and I thought ‘hey, may as well do it while I am here.’ I always vote,” voter Arthur Beck said.

Neither Pennsylvania nor Michigan allow absentee voting without a valid excuse.

And when looking at the numbers, early voting has not added to overall turnout. Discounting Presidential elections, while the numbers of absentee ballot requests have grown, overall figures have fallen when comparing off year and gubernatorial years.

Republican leaders said it is ultimately a voter’s responsibility to exercise their rights.

“Now you can vote by mail. You can vote 28 days early. Or you can go to the polls on Election Day. That is significant enough time for everyone to get to the ballot if they choose to,” Winbush said.

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