Democrats "Win" Early Voting Case — Maybe
Well, this certainly doesn't clear things up, even though it is technically a victory for the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party. They had sued the state of Ohio over its closing of early voting the three days before the election because it allowed military families to vote then, but no one else. They asked to have the period open to everyone.
And a panel of three judges from a federal appeals court agreed this them, saying that if "states were permitted to pick and choose among groups of similarly situated voters to dole out special voting privileges," then "partisan state legislatures could give extra early voting time to groups that traditionally support the party in power and impose corresponding burdens on the other party’s core constituents."
And that's exactly what did happen in Ohio. The legislature closed the three-day window because it was predominantly favored by African-American voters, about which more in my next post. While Ohio Republicans insisted virtuously, they only wanted to help make things run smoothly for boards of election, the judges found,
Ohio’s most populous county, Cuyahoga County, asserted that maintaining in-person early voting would actually alleviate some of its burden by spreading out the demand for voting over more days, thus reducing lines and wait times at polling places on Election Day.
The hidden snag, however, is that the court left the final decision to the individual boards of election — and that could put us back to where we were a couple of months ago in the battle over weekend and evening hours.
You will recall that across the state, Democratic members of boards of election were voting in favor of expanded in-person early voting hours everywhere, while Republican members were voting for them in Republican counties but mostly against them in the large Democratic urban counties. That resulted in a tie for those counties — since each board has two Democrats and two Republicans — and under Ohio law, the secretary of state breaks the tie. Husted was deciding that the large urban counties could not extend early voting hours, leaving a lopsided map of counties on one side of the partisan divide with vastly more hours to vote than the other.
The outcry that followed caused Husted to set uniform early voting hours for all 88 boards of election, a slightly fairer solution, although my next post will explain why it's only slightly fairer.
To allow the same situation to occur — to have some counties, mostly Republican — open the weekend prior to the election, and to have all the big urban counties closed would most likely provoke another lawsuit. This one is definitely up in the air.