Supreme Court Ends Ohio’s Attempt to Limit Early Voting

October 16, 2012

by Jeremy Leaming

Yet another federal court has dealt a major blow to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s dogged work to restrict voting in his state – this time it was provided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Today the justices refused to consider a federal appeals court opinion that blocked Husted’s attempt to shut down early voting days before the general election, The Plain Dealer reported.

In 2008, the state allowed early voting during the three days before Election Day. Husted has fought to close that window. The Obama campaign and Ohio groups sued Husted arguing that the measure to limit early voting would greatly hinder the right to vote of tens of thousands of people. (The campaign argued that in 2008 about 100,000 people voted in the three days preceding the general election.)

Rick Hasen, at Election Law Blog, says the action by the high court is part of “a run in the courts for those fighting Republican legislative cutbacks on voting rights in 2012.”

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit also kept in place an injunction against a provision of Ohio law that placed a large burden on voters to ensure they were casting the correct ballots at the right precinct. The injunction will allow ballots cast in the wrong precinct because of poll workers’ errors to be counted.

In an ACS Issue Brief, Loyola Law school professor Justin Levitt said attempts to curtail early voting do “not fall evenly on the population as a whole” noting that in past elections minorities overwhelmingly used the early voting windows. “In 2008, for example, African-Americans represented 13 percent of the total voters, and 22 percent of the early voters, but 31 percent of the total voters on the final Sunday,” before Election Day.

Levitt concluded that limits on voting – curtailment of early voting, restrictions on voter registration drives and onerous voter ID requirements – are a serious detriment to a fundamental tenet of democracy. The barriers to voting, he said, place burdens unevenly on “eligible citizens of exercising the franchise. More disturbing, the restrictions are unnecessary and unjustified, and in some cases, even potentially counterproductive.”