Fifteen states and several military organizations announced their support for Ohio’s elections chief Friday in a dispute over early voting, which is being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has appealed a lower court ruling that reinstates early voting on the three days before Election Day and returns discretion to local boards of elections.
Husted also has asked the Supreme Court to delay the lower court’s decision while it decides whether to take the case.
The campaign of President Barack Obama, which sued the state over the early voting, says a new Ohio law unfairly ends early, in-person voting for most Ohioans on the Friday evening before the Tuesday election, while allowing military and overseas voters to cast a ballot in person until Monday.
Before the changes to the law, local boards of election had the discretion to set their own early, in-person voting hours on the days before the election. And in-person voting on the weekend varied among the state’s 88 counties.
Husted has argued that all counties should have the same early voting hours and be open on the same days.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week reinstated early voting on the final three days. But the three-judge panel also said local boards of elections would have the discretion to decide whether to allow voters to cast an early ballot on the weekend and Monday before Election Day — just as they could in 2008.
“While we readily acknowledge the need to provide military voters more time to vote, we see no corresponding justification for giving others less time,” Judge Eric L. Clay wrote in the opinion.
Attorneys general for 15 states said in a court filing Friday that the Constitution gives states exclusive power to set the time, place and manner for voting. They also said the appeals court overstated the significance of eliminating those days, since Ohio already provides 23 days for in-person or absentee early voting.
The states also say the lower court disregarded the special status of military voters.