September 1, 2012
If you want the full story on election reform news, there are few better places than expert Rick Hasen’s Election Law Blog. With the recent early voting court ruling in Ohio, it is again the Election Law Blog that has the best coverage. First, there is the post Breaking News: Federal Judge Orders Ohio to Restore Weekend Early Voting in Ohio Weekend Before Election Day. Hasen gives his analysis of the ruling and the impact:
I thought we were done with blockbuster election law decisions before Labor Day, but now comes this order from a federal district court in Ohio in Obama for America v. Husted granting a preliminary injunction enjoining the state from enforcing a new law barring early voting on the weekend before election day. The state had such voting in 2008 but eliminated it in 2012 except for UOCAVA voters–including military voters, who might be deployed at any time.
The judge first noted that the state did not mandate that election boards provide military voters who might be deployed at any time an actual right to cast an early ballot. It instead left the question to local election boards. Using the Anderson/Burdick balancing test and the right to no arbitrary and disparate treatment recognized in Bush v. Gore and other cases, the Court held that taking away early voting for all voters except (possibly) the UOCAVA voters violated the equal protection clause:
From the onset of this litigation, Defendants have pointed to special concerns for the military—concerns all parties share—and the military’s need to maintain additional access to in-person early voting. But for UOCAVA voters, what is left is, potentially, one day: Monday. Defendants have presented no evidence to sustain the inference that in-person early voting on Monday—one day—will burden county boards of elections to the extent that the injury to Plaintiffs is justified.
Moreover, Defendants undercut the virtue of their support of military voters by failing to protect any significant measure of UOCAVA voting. Unless a serviceperson is “suddenly deployed” at exactly the right time—enabling in-person voting on Monday—he or she will likely be unable to vote, depending on the local elections board’s “discretion.” That the State cannot justify its interest in foreclosing Ohio voters for one day emphasizes the arbitrary nature of its action.
Finally, this Court notes that restoring in-person early voting to all Ohio voters through the Monday before Election Day does not deprive UOCAVA voters from early voting. Instead, and more importantly, it places all Ohio voters on equal standing. The only hindrance to UOCAVA early voting is the Secretary of State’s failure to set uniform hours at elections boards during the last three days before Election Day.
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. 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.
Moreover, the State fails to articulate a precise, compelling interest in establishing the 6 p.m. Friday deadline as applied to non-UOCAVA voters and has failed to evidence any commitment to the “exception” it rhetorically extended to UOCAVA voters. Therefore, the State’s interests are insufficiently weighty to justify the injury to Plaintiffs. See Anderson v. Celebrezze, 460 U.S. 780, 798 (1983).
Election Law Blog also has links to some other interesting articles on the subject. The first is an National Public Radio (NPR) link to a radio talk show on the subject that can be found here. It has the following introduction on the NPR website:
A federal judge has ruled that an Ohio law which would change early voting rules cannot take effect. The law would limit early voting in the final days before an election to military personnel. Pam Fessler talks to Melissa Block.
Also, Election Law Blog had a link to a Bloomberg News article “Ohio Must Restore Three Days Of Early Voting, Judge Rules” written by Andrew Harris and Margaret Cronin Fisk that can be found here. The article explains:
Fights over voting access are intensifying in swing states including Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvaniaand Wisconsin, where both Republican and Democratic presidential campaigns see a possibility of victory. Voter cases are also under way in Alabama, Texas and South Carolina.
Today’s decision follows two rulings this week by federal judges in Washington rejecting laws passed by Texas’s Republican-dominated Legislature and approved by Republican GovernorRick Perry. One stopped the state from requiring photographic identification to vote. The other blocked a redistricting plan that the court said would discriminate against black and Hispanic voters.
Rick Hasen, the brain behind Election Law Blog is described by Wikipedia as “the William H. Hannon Distinguished Professor of Law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, California, United States.” It further states that “Hasen’s area of expertise is in election law and campaign finance regulation.”
Another interesting link that I found was http://www.earlyvoting.net/
Map of the US showing states that permit no-excuse early voting:
Current as of approximately September 5, 2007: