COLUMBUS —The U.S. Supreme Court today refused to get involved in Ohio’s dispute over early voting, leaving in place a federal court ruling requiring the state to allow in-person voting on the three days immediately before the election.
In a one-sentence order, the high court declined to halt lower federal court rulings as requested by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Jon Husted, both Republicans.
That means the critical battleground state cannot provide early voting during the Saturday, Sunday, and Monday before the Nov. 6 election exclusively for military personnel and their families without also doing so for other voters.
Voters have been casting ballots in mail or in person since Oct. 2.
Mr. Husted wasted little time issuing a directive setting uniform hours for all 88 counties for those three days—8 a.m. to 2 p.m. that Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday.
The lawsuit was brought by President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and fellow Democrats, who argued that it was unconstitutional to allow one set of voters to have early voting during those three days but not others. Federal courts have all now agreed with that position, noting that the state failed to demonstrate that allowing fuller voting as it did four years ago would create a hardship for boards of elections.
“This action from the highest court in the land marks the end of the road in our fight to ensure open voting this year for all Ohioans, including military, veterans, and overseas voters,’’ said Bob Bauer, the campaign’s general counsel. “We now turn our full attention to educating Ohio voters on when and how they can vote along with presenting the clear choice they face when selecting their next President.”
The decision means that state law would revert to the prior practice of allowing Ohio’s 88 counties to set their own early voting hours for those three days, but Mr. Husted has indicated that he plans to issue a directive setting uniform hours as he already has for the rest of the 35-day early voting period.
A federal judge had already indicated that Mr. Husted would do so in accordance with his prior stated goal of ensuring that voting opportunities in all counties are equal.
Fifteen states, including Michigan, had joined with Ohio in urging the high court to take the case, arguing that the rulings from U.S. District Court in Columbus and the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit Court of Appeals represented an intrusion into the rights of states to run their own elections.
A number of military organizations had also sided with the state to argue that Ohio’s special treatment for military personnel was warranted given that they could be deployed out of state as a moment’s notice.
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