A Bill Clinton-appointed federal judge ruled Friday that Ohio must grant the request by the Obama campaign and Ohio Democrats to allow all voters to have the option of casting their votes in person in the three days leading up to Election Day.
District court Judge Peter Economus ruled that Ohio law unfairly gave active-duty military personnel – who typically are more likely to vote Republican than the general population – an unequal advantage.
Ohio’s law, which was passed last year by Gov. John Kasich and the Republican-controlled legislature, ended early voting. The law exempted military personnel and Ohioans living overseas.
Democrats estimated that some 93,000 people voted in the three days leading up to the 2008 election.
“On balance, the right of Ohio voters to vote in person during the last three days prior to Election Day — a right previously conferred to all voters by the state — outweighs the state’s interest in setting the 6 p.m. Friday deadline,” Economus wrote. “The burden on Ohio voters’ right to participate in the national and statewide election is great, as evidenced by the statistical analysis offered by Plaintiffs and not disputed by Defendants.”
The judge ruled that residents’ rights to vote in the three days leading up to the election outweighed the state’s reasons for limiting their ability.
The state is among 32 states, plus the District of Columbia, that gives voters an option to cast an early mail-in ballot by mail or in person without giving a reason.
Attorneys for the state argued that many laws already grant military voters special accommodations when it comes to voting such as allowing them to send absentee ballots up to 45 days before the election.
Following the decision the American Civil Liberties Union called on Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to allow in-person voting every weekend in the early-voting period, not just the weekend before the election.
“The Obama lawyers claim they support the right of the military to vote, but they continue to argue that no special provision can be made for them. That is flatly against legal precedent,” NRO columnist John Fund wrote in the lead up to the decision. “Courts have already decided that it doesn’t violate equal-protection laws for states to treat military voters differently than other voters.”
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has promised to appeal.