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U.S. Supreme Court refusal to hear appeal ensures availability of early voting in Ohio

by | Oct 16, 2012 | Firm News |

The U.S. Supreme Court today refused to hear a challenge to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that previously restored early voting rights in Ohio during the three days prior to the November 6, 2012 Presidential election.

In previous election years, approximately 100,000 Ohioans have voted during the three days prior to election, largely blacks, women, the elderly and low-income people.  Earlier this year, Ohio Republicans changed the election rules by canceling early voting, making exceptions only for members of the military as federal law requires that members of the military be permitted to vote early.  The Republicans contended that allowing early voting was burdensome on local election boards.  President Obama’s campaign, the Democratic National Commission and the Ohio Democratic Party brought suit seeking an injunction to prohibit the changes from going into effect, arguing that terminating early voting violated the constitutional right of equal protection for non-military citizens.

In August, the federal district court agreed, ruling that prohibiting early voting likely violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution because “low-income and minority voters are disproportionately affected by elimination” of particular early voting days. The court further found “there is no definitive evidence… that elections boards would be tremendously burdened” by permitting the same early voting that has been permitted in previous election years.  Based on these findings, the district court granted the injunction.

On Friday, October 5, 2012, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the federal district court’s ruling, noting the public interest favors permitting as many qualified voters to vote as possible.  The Court found that proponents of the measure had failed to propose any  “interest which would justify reducing the opportunity to vote by a considerable segment of the voting population.”

The Ohio Republican Party filed an emergency appeal with the United States Supreme Court seeking a stay of the Sixth Circuit ruling.  Without any noted dissent, the Supreme Court denied the application for a stay, thus leaving the injunction in place and requiring Ohio to permit early voting.

To learn more about the Supreme Court’s ruling and the events preceding it, read this article on the SCOTUS blog.