U.S. District Judge Peter Economus ruled Aug. 31 that all Ohio citizens must be allowed to cast pre-Election Day ballots through Nov. 5, agreeing with the Obama campaign and state and national Democratic parties that Ohio’s plan to grant three more early or absent voting days to residents in the armed forces or living overseas was unconstitutional.
Economus last week rejected a request by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to delay enforcement of his decree until the federal appeals court in Cincinnati and then, potentially, the U.S. Supreme Court reviews the case. The Obama campaign told the appeals court in a Sept. 17 brief that ending early balloting on Nov. 2 for all except overseas residents and military personnel imposes a significant burden on the right to vote.
“Making it more difficult for people to vote serves no public purpose,” Donald J. McTigue, a lawyer with Obama for America, wrote in the filing.
Ohio controls 18 of the minimum 270 Electoral College votes that Obama or Republican candidate Mitt Romney will need to win the presidency. Husted and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine have said military voters face “special burdens,” including quick deployment and travel restrictions, justifying the three additional days under the U.S. Constitution.
“The Equal Protection Clause does not prevent a government from applying different rules to those in demonstrably different circumstances,” DeWine said in his brief.
Democrats also are challenging laws such as voter-list purges, early-voting curbs and photo-identification mandates in courts in Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa, Florida and Ohio. U.S. courts in August rejected election-related laws passed by Republican-controlled legislatures in Ohio, Florida and Texas, finding they violated the right to vote.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court today set aside a ruling that permitted enforcement of a voter photo-ID law, asking a lower court to assess alternative forms of identification.
DeWine and Husted, both named defendants in the Obama campaign’s suit, are Republicans. Economus was appointed to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, in 1995.
The cases are Obama for America v. Husted, 12-4055 and 12-4076, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (Cincinnati).
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