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UPDATE: Watchdog Wire has learned that the U.S. Supreme Court granted Ohio’s request to block court-ordered expanded early voting by a vote of 5-4 Monday.
Ohio is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve its court battle over early voting.
Attorneys for the state asked the court on Thursday to delay early voting hours forced upon the state by a federal judge. The day prior a federal appeal court upheld the initial order, made Sept. 4 by U.S. District Judge Peter Economus.
The ruling cited studies which say the reduction in early voting, passed by the GOP-controlled legislature in February, disproportionately impacts minority and low-income voters.
The legislature set 28 days of early voting, but Judge Economus felt that 35 days of early voting was needed. Across the country, the median number of early voting days is 11.
In Thursday’s court filing, State Solicitor Eric Murphy insisted that the voting schedule passed by the legislature be allowed to continue, not what Judge Economus ordered.
“Ohio respectfully asks that the federal courts permit it to implement the early-voting schedule its democratically elected representatives chose and for which its voters and elections officials have prepared for over six months,” Murphy wrote.
When Ohio reduced the amount of early voting, critics claimed it was an attempt to restrict minority and Democratic voter turnout. In the filing with the U.S. Supreme Court, the state noted that it remains a “national leader in making voting easy,” with more early voting opportunities than many other states.
Ohio has been a source of voting controversy since at least 2004, when long lines at voting locations meant people waiting in line for as many as 12 hours.
A national issue
Typically the U.S. Supreme Court avoids weighing in on state matters if they don’t have broader national implications. But because early voting is an issue throughout the country, the court may take an interest. This is particularly true if federal courts have made conflicting rulings.
“The Court would grant review of this case because similar suits are percolating throughout the country with conflicting outcomes,” the court filing said. “Ironically, it might be the fact that Ohio offers one of the most expansive early voting schedules that has led it to reach this Court first. But circuit courts have fast-tracked other challenges.”
Voting rights have remained a hot topic throughout President Obama’s time in office. Departing Attorney General Eric Holder made voting rights a prominent issue for the Department of Justice.
In his remarks about Eric Holder’s resignation, Mr. Obama noted that Holder “has been relentless against attacks on the Voting Rights Act.”
Holder’s voting rights activism led the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Voting Right Act last year. The court’s ruling struck down one section of that law, making it harder for the Department of Justice to block new voting laws in states with a history of discriminatory laws.
Such ‘preclearance’ requirements for southern states were considered outdated by the court.
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