Some good news from the courts. United States District Court Judge Peter Economus has issued a permanent injunction ordering Ohio to reinstate the three days of early voting preceding the election.
The full opinion is available on the excellent Moritz Election Law Litigation webpage.
Quick refresher: Following the TCF that was the 2004 presidential election, Ohio adopted no-excuse early voting. Ohio permitted voters to cast early ballots up to the day before an election. The Republicans in the Legislature noticed that early voting was done primarily in Democratic-leaning areas, and especially in Africa-American areas. As part of a broader effort to make it harder for people to vote, the Republicans passed, and John Kasich signed, a bill that effectively eliminated the final three days of in-person early voting for non-military voters.
Secretary of State Jon Husted complicated matters by issuing a umber of different directives to the Boards of Elections setting different deadlines and hours when absentee votes could be cast by the remaining eligible voters.
The Obama campaign filed a lawsuit prior to the 2012 election. The court granted a preliminary injunction effectively restring the eary voting. This injunction is not permanent.
The federal judge emphasized that there is no right to vote early, but held that
“where the State has authorized in-person earlyvoting through the Monday before Election Day for all voters, the State may not, by later arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person’s vote over that of another.” Interestingly, for those old enough to remember this, the court quoted Bush v. Gore to support this legal conclusion.
What does this mean? This means that Ohio must permit all voters to cast absentee votes on the days immediately preceding the election in the upcoming election. The Court will not permit Husted to play games with this early voting by issuing overly-restrictive directives on hours, for example.
What’s next? A new case, filed by the NAACP challenges the elimination of early voting on the theory that the changes have disparate impact on the African-American community. We will be watching this case very closely.