Ohio Republicans Appeal To U.S. Supreme Court To Curtail Early Voting

Election '16

Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State John Husted is deteremined to stop upwards of 100,000 Ohioans—many of whom are African-American churchgoers who live in the state’s cities—from voting on the Sunday before Election Day in November.

Husted has been smacked down by a succession of federal court ruling in his efforts to curtail early voting on the final weekend before Election Day on November 6th. But on Tuesday, his office filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court raising the banner of a state’s right to regulate its elections as superior in law to the federal courts.

“Secretary of State Jon Husted today announced that he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to make the final determination on whether the General Assembly of the State of Ohio or the federal courts should set Ohio election laws,” Husted’s website said. “Husted will be appealing the Friday decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Obama v. Husted.” 

“This is an unprecedented intrusion by the federal courts into how states run elections and because of its impact on all 50 states as to who and how elections will be run in America we are asking the Supreme Court to step in and allow Ohioans to run Ohio elections,” Husted said in a press release. “In Ohio, ALL voters already have at least 230 hours available to vote in person prior to Election Day, ALL registered voters received an application to vote by mail and ALL voters still have the ability to vote during the 13-hour window on Election Day itself.”

Husted is playing a shrewd legal game. He is holding up the banner of so-called equal protection, saying that all Ohio counties have to offer the same voting options and hours. Republican-majority rural counties don’t want to offer early voting on the final weekend, while Democratic-majority counties do. Husted knows very well that many more people will vote on that final Sunday—because it’s easier than doing it on the following Tuesday, a work day.

The federal court’s have seen through this transparently partisan ruse, but have stopped short of dictating polling place hours. Last week, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Ohio elections boards may reinstate early in-person voting on the three days before Election Day but didn’t order boards to do so. The appeals court found that Husted’s office had “proposed no interest which would justify reducing the opportunity to vote by a considerable segment of the voting population.”

That ruling was the latest in a suit brought by the Obama campaign and Ohio Democrats claiming that Husted was allowing overseas military voters to cast ballots throughout that final weekend but not in-state residents, which the Obama campaign said was unequal treatment. The GOP has tried to spin that suit into an attack on military voters, which is absurd because nothing has changed with their ability to vote in Ohio.

Husted has consistently thumbed his nose at courts who have ruled against his voting restrictions in a series decisions starting this summer. In September, he told Ohio’s 88 county boards of elections to ignore a federal district court’s ruling to offer early voting. That move so angered U.S. District Court Judge Peter Economus that he ordered Husted to personally appear in his courtroom.  

About 93,000 Ohioans voted in the final three days of the 2008 election. A study by Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates found that African-Americans accounted for 56 percent of all in-person early votes in Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, while they accounted for 26 percent of votes overall. In Franklin County, which includes Columbus, African-Americans cast 31 percent of early votes and 21 percent of votes overall.

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