COLUMBUS — An appeal filed on Tuesday could have a major impact on the results of the November election in the State of Ohio.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced Tuesday that he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to make the final determination on whether the General Assembly of the State of Ohio or the federal courts should set Ohio election laws.
A ruling on Friday by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Obama v. Husted reinstated the final three days of early voting prior to the November 6 general election.
“This is an unprecedented intrusion by the federal courts into how states run elections, and because of its impact on all 50 states as to who and how elections will be run in America, we are asking the Supreme Court to step in and allow Ohioans to run Ohio elections,” said Husted.
A statement released Tuesday afternoon by Obama for America General Counsel Bob Bauer states, “there is no justification for the state’s arbitrary actions this year in trying to deny the vast majority of its voters access to open polling places for the last three days before the election. This has been the unanimous conclusion of the courts that have considered this case.
“The Secretary of State has now chosen to extend the litigation and to ask the United States Supreme Court to intervene just four weeks before the election. We have no reason to believe that he will meet with any more success now than before,” Bauer said. It is a shame that the Secretary would not have committed his office’s energy instead to implementing the outstanding court orders and administering the orderly and effective early voting process that has served Ohio voters so well since 2005.”
A directive issued in August by the Secretary of State’s Office determined that early voting in the state of Ohio would end on November 2 — three days prior to the general election.
The directive set uniform days and hours for early voting (absentee voting in person) to take place in Ohio.
“Today I am leveling the playing field on voting days and hours during the absentee voting period in each of the 88 counties — rural, urban and suburban. All Ohio voters will have the same amount of time — 23 days or 230 hours — to vote in person prior to Election Day. And let’s not forget that we still have Election Day, when polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.,” said Husted in August.
Since that time a court case has been filed to allow early voting until the day of the election.
President Barack Obama’s campaign and Democrats had sued Husted and Ohio’s attorney general over part of a law cutting off early voting for most residents on the Friday evening before a Tuesday election. The law makes an exception for military personnel and Ohio voters living overseas.
A decision on Friday by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the final three days of early voting in Ohio.
The 6th Circuit decision affirmed a lower court ruling from August. U.S. District Judge Peter Economus said he expected Husted to direct all county elections boards to maintain a specific, consistent schedule on the three final days before Election Day.
Democrats had argued everyone should have the chance to vote on those three days before the election. They said a series of changes by state lawmakers had arbitrarily eliminated the opportunity for most Ohio residents to vote in person on those days, while giving military or overseas voters the chance to do so.
Attorneys for the state said many laws already grant military personnel special voting accommodations, such as requirements for states to send absentee ballots to them 45 days before the election. And they contend local boards also need those three days to prepare for the election.
But Economus said the voters’ right to cast ballots in person on those days outweighs the state’s reasons for limiting that opportunity.
The judge issued a preliminary injunction on Aug. 31, concluding that the state’s law was unconstitutional in changing the in-person early voting deadline and that the state was wrongly valuing certain votes above others.
Before the changes to the law, local boards of elections previously set early voting hours on those three final days. And weekday hours and weekend voting varied among the state’s counties.
“While I will be asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Ohio law through the appeals process, the last thing I want to see is a non-uniform system where voters will be treated differently in all 88 counties,” said Husted.
“Since some boards of elections have already started to take action on hours of operation for the three days before Election Day, I am going to take time to consult with all 88 counties before crafting a directive to set uniform hours should the state not be successful upon appeal.”
The Ohio Secretary of State’s website currently lists the following times for early voting: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 10-Friday, Oct. 12 and Monday, Oct. 15-Friday, Oct. 19; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday, Oct. 22-Friday, Oct. 26 and Monday, Oct. 19-Thursday, Nov. 1; and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday, Nov. 2. Early is available at the county board of elections office during these times.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.