Ohio’s Voting Wars

The Washington Post reports on the state of Ohio’s emergency application for a stay of a lower court injunction against recent changes in early voting rules, pending its petition for certiorari in this case.

The issue is whether Ohio may allow only military voters to take advantage of in-person early voting in the three days before the Nov. 6 election. A district judge and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit said the state had not shown why it should differentiate among groups of voters.

“While there is a compelling reason to provide more opportunities for military voters to cast their ballots, there is no corresponding satisfactory reason to prevent nonmilitary voters from casting their ballots as well,” the appeals court said. About 105,000 voters had cast their ballots during the three days in question in 2008. . . .

Although the state has permitted early voting on the weekend before the election in the past — long lines on Election Day in 2004 prompted the change — the Republican-controlled legislature ended weekend voting this year, saying local boards of election needed the time to prepare. The state made an exception for military voters, who it said could be deployed at any time and thus miss the chance to vote.

Such decisions, Ohio says, are for each state to make. The 15 states supporting that position — all, like Ohio, have Republican attorneys general — told the court that the Constitution’s “genius” is to allow states “to consider and implement creative, novel efforts to widen the ability of citizens to vote.”

Rick Hasen provides some analysis here, here, and here. He thinks Ohio had a decent shot had he sought en banc review, but the state has gone straight to the Supreme Court instead. SCOTUSBlog has more here.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has decided another case that could also end up at the Supreme Court, SEIU v. Husted. The case concerns the counting of provisional ballots where voters voted in the wrong precinct due to poll worker error. Hasen believes this is an important case, and it’s also worth watching.

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