Barry M. Horstman reports:
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted today asked the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether Ohioans may cast early in-person absentee ballots during the final three days before the Nov. 6 presidential election.
Husted’s decision leaves a key part of Ohio’s electoral rules in legal limbo less than one month before Election Day. It’s aimed at overturning a ruling last Friday by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals authorizing early voting on the final Saturday through Monday before the election.
“This is an unprecedented intrusion by the federal courts into how states run elections,” Husted said.
Last week, the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit, upholding an earlier decision by U.S. District Judge Peter Economus, said that early voting restrictions would be especially harmful to women, minorities, older voters and those with lower incomes and less education.
Four years ago, turnout in the 2008 presidential election was heavy in the three-day period at issue in the case, particularly among Democrats. In what Democrats’ viewed as a politically motivated move, the Republican-controlled state legislature this year eliminated early voting during that final pre-election weekend, except for military members and Americans overseas.
That prompted a lawsuit by the Obama campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the state Democratic Party. Both Economus and the appeals court sided with the Democratic groups, with the 6th Circuit saying that while military voters deserve more time to vote, “we see no corresponding justification for giving others less time.”
Husted, however, said the 6th Circuit’s decision “not only doesn’t make legal sense, it doesn’t make practical sense.”
“The court is saying that all voters must be treated the same way under Ohio law, but also grants Ohio’s 88 elections boards the authority to establish 88 different sets of rules,” Husted said. “The last I want to see is a non-uniform system where voters will be treated differently in all 88 counties.”
Tim Burke, chairman of both the Hamilton County Board of Elections and the county Democratic Party, said Husted’s decision to appeal “throws everything into chaos and doesn’t do anything for voters.”
Awaiting a Supreme Court decision, Burke noted, will push resolution of the voting issue closer to Election Day, giving election officials, poll workers and voters less time to adjust.
Husted, well aware of that potential logistical problem, said he plans to establish uniform early voting hours for the three days in question, a schedule that would be implemented if his appeal fails.