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Judge Economus grants Obama request to restore days for early voting



Published: Sat, September 1, 2012 @ 12:09 a.m.

By Marc Kovac

news@vindy.com

COLUMBUS

U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus has ordered Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted to restore early in-person voting on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day.

The federal judge sided with President Barack Obama’s election campaign, which sued after lawmakers set different deadlines for early voting for men and women serving in the military.

Economus ruled that election law changes OK’d by Republican lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. John Kasich were unconstitutional and “enjoined [Husted] from implementing or enforcing” the revised law.

“It is further ordered that in-person early voting is restored on the three days immediately preceding Election Day for all eligible Ohio voters,” Judge Economus wrote. “And specifically, for the purposes of the 2012 general election, this order restores in-person early voting to all eligible Ohio voters on Saturday, Nov. 3... Sunday, Nov. 4 ... and Monday, Nov. 5.”

He added, “This court anticipates that defendant secretary of state will direct all Ohio elections boards to maintain a specific, consistent schedule on those three days in keeping with his earlier directive that only by doing so can he ensure that Ohio’s election process is ‘uniform, accessible for all, fair and secure.’”

Attorney General Mike DeWine indicated he would appeal the decision.

“With all due respect to the judge, we disagree,” DeWine said. “Since the time of the Civil War, we’ve made a distinction ... between the availability and the ability ... [of] people who are in the military versus the rest of us to vote. ... To say that this denies protection for certain voters, we think from a constitutional point of view, is simply wrong.”

The case traces its roots to House Bill 194. Among other changes, the legislation ended early in-person voting on the Friday before Election Day rather than allowing early votes through Monday.

House Bill 194 was the subject of a successful referendum campaign, but Republican lawmakers pre-emptively repealed it. However, the early in-person voting cutoff was added to separate legislation and remains part of Ohio law, creating a scenario in which military voters will be allowed to visit an open board of elections office and cast ballots on the Monday before an election, while other voters will be prohibited from doing so.

The Obama campaign and the Ohio Democratic Party argued that was unconstitutional and sued to force Husted to restore early in-person voting on the weekend and Monday before the election.

Legal counsel for Husted countered that federal and state laws dictate special treatment of military voters, and that it’s entirely proper for Ohio’s servicemen and women to be allowed to vote in person after the deadline for others.

“We are disappointed by the ruling and continue to stand with the 15 military groups who believe it’s constitutional to grant special early voting privileges to the brave men and women of our military,” Christopher Maloney, spokesman for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

But Judge Economus sided with the Obama campaign, noting that “thousands of Ohio voters” voted in the three days prior to the 2008 general election.

“This court finds that ‘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,” he wrote. “... Defendants offer little in support of their claim that Ohio elections boards cannot simultaneously accommodate in-person early voting and pre-Election Day preparations during the three days prior to Election Day.”

He added, “Certainly, the public interest is served by restoring in-person early voting to all Ohio voters. ... Restoring in-person early voting to all Ohio voters through the Monday before Election Day returns to voters the same opportunity to vote as previously conferred under Ohio law.”

DeWine said the decision would mean county boards have to open on the Saturday and Sunday before Election Day. Husted had ordered county elections boards to offer early in-person voting during specified weekday hours, with weekend polls.


Comments

1AtownAugie(697 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

The politicos know to judge-shop for better chances to get the decision they want. The Obama folks didn't want to chance the Southern District, so they went to a Clinton-appointee in the Northern District who ended active service on July 3, 2009 and is now a senior judge (read: retired but available to the correct appellant). Of course, A.G. DeWine will judge-shop too in hopes of a more favorable ruling -- some Bush-appointee most likely. (Justice seems to not be blind, but either a donkey or an elephant with myopic vision.)

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2Alexinytown(246 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

With all due respect, Judge Economus and the Federal government should keep their noses the hell out of Ohio election law as well as making political legal rulings.

The Federal government does not have any jurisdiction here but Judge Economus thinks it is within his right to make it within the Fed's jurisdiction by playing politics.

"This court finds that ‘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."

There is no such thing as early voting fist of all, it is in person absentee voting. Second, the fact that thousands of people did vote on the weekend is not reason enough to find this to be unconstitutional.

If this is the case, every election preceding the change in laws by Brunner's office must have been unconstitutional too using the logic they are using here in this court.

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3Just_me(18 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

This is a federal issue as it is a Presidential election year, dingbat! I, for one, am appreciative of the ruling as I travel during the week for work and return to my home on weekends. DeWine was never very cerebral, but to use the rationale that early voting on those days is just for the military is moot as they can still vote early as well with Economus's ruling which still includes them and was based on the public interest. Give me a break...it had nothing to do with him being a Clinton appointee, although Clinton was a hell of a lot smarter than Bush who spent billions per week on a useless war in Iraq and blamed it on 911 when al queda was elsewhere.

Why are Republicans so afraid of giving access to more voters in Ohio? Because even after a week of trying to re-image the unpopular Romney, they fear giving up the power of privledge that only the rich are used to having -to commoners. This is all about social class and access and the judge was wise to cite the masses of Ohio voters who voted early in his decision. I believe it will be upheld in the public interest.

People need to really be asking why Republicans are about denying access to the convenience of early voting vs questioning the integrity of the good judge. That diversion is simply a cop out, as was DeWine's inference that access would somehow minimize our respect of those serving in the military.

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4Alexinytown(246 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Forgive me, I didn't know that since it is a Federal election the Federal government has exclusive authority over voting. That is sarcasm in case you didn't catch it.

I rarely say this, but help yourself to a copy of the Constitution and learn what powers the Federal government has and does not have. Take the hint, the Federal government has no jurisdiction or authority on voting. That power is reserved to the states, including times and days of voting.

Federal requirements for military voting are itself an overreach of the Federal government, so claiming violation of equal protection for an illegal law already in place is about as silly as most of the above posts.

And sorry you have to be inconvenienced to vote on a day that isn't the weekend, 35 days to vote in person or in the mail must not be enough time for you. I'm sorry you are so busy that the allotted time is not enough.

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5GoPens(397 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

What's next from Republicans? Poll taxes and literacy tests?

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6Alexinytown(246 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Just-Me: You dingbat

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7southsidedave(4780 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

So what is wrong with early voting all of a sudden?

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8commoncitizen(961 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

You do have absentee voting, in case you are out of town OR just plain lazy to go on voting day!!!

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9walter_sobchak(1914 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Voting regulations, including federal offices, are still conducted under mandates of state law so long as the rules don't violate the US Constitution. It is difficult to understand how a federal judge can over-rule a state law that has been legally enacted. This ruling will most likely be overturned.

That being said, how did the Republic survive for so many years with voting on one day and absentee voting? What are we supposed to do; give away steak dinners to entice people to vote?!?!?You either believe it is your duty, accomodate your schedule, or just don't vote.

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10LtMacGowan(643 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

People are complaining oh let me rephrase GOP'ers are complaining that now more people will have access to the ballot box? thats down right unamerican! Giving people every opportunity to exercise their constitutional given powers to vote what a travesty! how else will the GOP make sure to defeat Obama if their Gerrymandering fails?

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