Federal Judge Orders Partial Restoration of Weekend Voting
United States District Court judge Peter Economus, a registered Democrat appointed by President Clinton, ruled in favor of President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign today, instructing Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to allow early in-person voting the weekend before the November election.
Ohio’s early in-person absentee voting hours begin in less than a month, and all registered voters in Ohio will be mailed absentee ballot applications. The federal court ruling will allow counties to hold weekend in-person voting hours, but only on the weekend immediately prior to Election Day.
Absent Economus’s ruling, the early voting schedule was set to allow military voters to cast early ballots through the day before the election, while non-military voters would be able to cast early ballots until 6:00 PM on Friday, November 2.
“‘In-person early voting’ is a voting term that had included the right to vote in person through the Monday before Election Day, and, now, thousands of voters who would have voted during those three days will not be able to exercise their right to cast a vote in person,” Economus wrote in his decision.
In July, Obama for America, the Ohio Democratic Party, and the Democratic National Committee sued Husted and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine – who are both Republicans – demanding that all Ohioans have the same weekend voting privileges as military voters. Early in-person voting was a key component of Obama’s 2008 election strategy.
In today’s decision, Economus also wrote that setting uniform early voting hours in all 88 Ohio counties while making a final-weekend exception for military voters was an attempt by Husted to “value one persons vote over that of another” through “later arbitrary and disparate treatment.” Based on his ruling and written opinion, Economus appeared to accept the reasoning of Democrats and unions who claim Husted is engaging in racially-driven voter suppression.
Although Husted has scheduled weeks worth of early voting including 11 days with in-person voting after regular business hours, left-wing groups have accused Republicans of resurrecting Jim Crow laws. Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern, contributing his trademark vitriol to the debate, said when the lawsuit was filed that Husted was “threatening to take us back to the relics of a different era.”
Contrary to claims made by liberal advocates of lax election laws, a recent statistical survey by the Dayton Daily News found that there was no positive correlation between extending voting hours and voter turnout.
In a July 2012 interview with CNN, Husted argued that county election officials “need those last three days” before election day “to get their records straight.” According to Husted, Obama for America opposes having an electoral system which “requires some level of personal responsibility.”
Husted has also argued that many counties cannot afford to hold weekend office hours for early in-person voting – a point that has fallen on deaf ears among advocates of higher taxes and bigger government.
According to Husted spokeswoman Alexis Zoldan, the secretary of state’s office is “still reviewing” the decision at this time. The Wall Street Journal and others have reported that Attorney General DeWine intends to appeal Economus’s ruling.