Victory for Democracy as Court Reinstates Early Voting for All In Ohio

A Federal Court re-instated early voting for all eligible voters in Ohio on Friday! The Sixth District Court of Appeals struck down Jon Husted’s restrictions on early voting based because it violates the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

The suit was filed by Obama for America and the DNC back in August.
Bob Bauer, General Counsel for Obama for America responded to the ruling on Friday with the following statement:

“With today’s decision by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, Ohio joins Wisconsin, Florida, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania as states that turned back restrictions on voter access and limitations on voter participation. The appellate court today affirmed the District Court’s decision in OFA v. Husted and held unanimously that every Ohioan should have equal access to early voting. As a result of this decision, every voter, including military, veterans, and overseas voters alongside all Ohioans, will have the same opportunity to vote early through the weekend and Monday before the election.

“Across the country, the hard work to protect Americans’ right to vote has paid off. We feel that every voter, regardless of party affiliation, that has the right to vote should be able to. We are now focused on making sure that voters across the country fully understand their rights, know exactly what their voting laws require of them, and clarify when they can cast their ballot.”

The Court upheld a lower court ruling against the Ohio law and Jon Husted’sdirective that restricts early voting which studies proved would disproportionately have an adverse affect on African Americans.

The State argued that its heavy restrictions on early voting were necessary to accommodate the special circumstances faced by Military voters. The problem is, as the Court noted, the stated desire to provide more opportunities for military voters doesn’t correspond with preventing people who are not in the military from voting as well.

The State’s asserted goal of accommodating the unique situation of members of the military, who may be called away at a moment’s notice in service to the nation, is certainly a worthy and commendable goal. However, 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 non-military voters from casting their ballots as well.

Notwithstanding, the State’s argument to the court, the restrictions that Husted placed on early voter was, in reality, always about suppressing the vote by qualified voters, who by coincidence were more likely to vote Democrat.
As noted by the court, studies showed that certain identifiable groups of voter were more likely to vote early and were different demographic groups from those who tend to vote in person on Election day.

Voters who chose to cast their ballots early tended to be members of different demographic groups than those who voted on election day. Early voters were “more likely than election-day voters to be women, older, and of lower income and education attainment.” (R. 34-31, Pls.’ Ex. 27, at 1.) Data from Cuyahoga and Franklin Counties suggests that early voters were disproportionately African-American and that a large majority of early in-person votes (82% in Franklin County) were cast after hours on weekdays, on the weekend, or on the Monday before the election.

The Court did recognize the State’s argument that the State may have had legitimate regulatory interest, but they don’t outweigh the burden placed on the identifiable groups who, in reality, would be denied the vote under the law in question and Jon Husted’s directive.

Given the studies presented regarding the heavy use of in-person after-hours and weekend voting, and the legitimate concerns of Ohio’s largest counties and their voters regarding the smooth and efficient running of the 2012 presidential election, I conclude that defendants’ legitimate regulatory interests do not outweigh the burden on voters whose right to vote in the upcoming election would be burdened by the joint effect of the statute and the directive.

The Republicans knew who they were effecting by these measures as was evident by Doug Priesse’s statement to the Columbus Dispatch back in August. “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”

Early voting, like absentee voting is about “contorting the voting process” to accommodate voters’ needs because voting is a right for all Americans, regardless of age, income, race or party affiliation. It’s just a matter of reality that there are some people who have to work for a living. In some cases, people are working several jobs with hours that extend around the clock. There are other reasons as well.

That is reflected in the fact that such a high number of voters in Ohio vote early or vote with an Absentee ballot. The previous law worked by making more accessible instead of less accessible.

Voting is one of those basic rights that go hand in hand with the right to freedom that Republicans like to talk about. Thank goodness the courts recognize that freedom applies to Urban read black voters, not to mention seniors, single moms and people who work for a living. Yes, people in these demographics are more likely to vote Democrat over the Republican Party. Given that Republicans would prefer that their voices are silenced in the political process is it any wonder?

While the Secretary of State’s site showed no information on the Early Voting Schedule, when I checked, according to this is the revised early voting schedule, following the Federal Court Decision to quash Jon Husted’s restrictions on Early Voting.
Early in-person vote hours are October 2nd-November 5th, Monday-Friday, at the following times:

Oct. 2nd – Oct. 19th: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Oct. 8th: Closed for Columbus Day
Last day to register & vote at the same time: October 9th 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Oct. 22nd – Nov. 1st: 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Nov. 2nd: 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

The last three days of early voting:

Nov. 3rd 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Nov. 5th: Regular business hours.
Check with your Board of Elections for extended hours on the last three days.

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