Early Voting Law Must Help More Than Military | Courthouse News Service
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Early Voting Law Must Help More Than Military

(CN) - The Supreme Court may be the next step for Ohio after the 6th Circuit affirmed an injunction that gives civilians the same extended voting privileges enjoyed by members of the military.

In August 2012, Obama for America, the Democratic National Committee and Ohio Democratic Party won a preliminary injunction against an Ohio statute imposing an early voting deadline of 6 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day for nonmilitary voters.

The statute provided military voters with the chance to cast early ballots until the close of polls on Election Day, but civilian voters were not eligible for the extra three days.

In enjoining the statute's enforcement, U.S. District Judge Peter Economus found that Ohio's "interests are insufficiently weighty to justify the injury to plaintiffs."

The Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit affirmed Friday.

"Plaintiffs introduced extensive evidence that a significant number of Ohio voters will in fact be precluded from voting without the additional three days of in-person early voting," Judge Eric Clay wrote for a three-member panel. "The district court credited statistical studies that estimated approximately 100,000 Ohio voters would choose to vote during the three-day period before Election Day, and that these voters are disproportionately 'women, older, and of lower income and education attainment.'"

Though Ohio has a commendable interest in accommodating military voters, the judges said there is no reason to keep the same benefit from all Ohio voters.

"The state argues that military voters need extra early voting time because they could be suddenly deployed," Clay wrote. "But any voter could be suddenly called away and prevented from voting on Election Day. At any time, personal contingencies like medical emergencies or sudden business trips could arise, and police officers, firefighters and other first responders could be suddenly called to serve at a moment's notice. There is no reason to provide these voters with fewer opportunities to vote than military voters, particularly when there is no evidence that local boards of elections will be unable to cope with more early voters. While we readily acknowledge the need to provide military voters more time to vote, we see no corresponding justification for giving others less time."

Ohio also failed to challenge the injunction as too broad, with the court finding that the ruling does not mandate that local boards of elections hold voting during the three days before Election Day.

"The state is enjoined from preventing [civilian] voters from participating in early voting," Clay wrote. "But the state is not affirmatively required to order the boards to be open for early voting. Under the district court's order, the boards have discretion, just as they had before the enactment of [the statute.] The District Court's remedy was therefore appropriate."

Ohio petitioned the Supreme Court to intercede on Tuesday, and Justice Elena Kagan set a deadline of Friday at 7 p.m. for responses.

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