Ohio joins growing brood of GOP-led states to suffer voting-law setbacks

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September 4, 2012


By Maresa Strano

Columbus, Ohio: The Ohio Legislature and Gov. John Kasich (R) passed a law changing Ohio's early voting system from allowing in-person early-voting for all voters up until the day before Election Day to allowing only military voters and citizens residing overseas to cast their votes the final three days before election day. Supporters argue the law was designed to help the state's almost 10,000 polling stations coordinate more efficiently in preparation for election day, as well as to combat voter fraud.[1]

On July 17, the Obama re-election campaign and other Democrats sued attorney general Mike DeWine and secretary of state Jon Husted (R) over the law, claiming it provides selective and unequal voting privileges and is therefore unconstitutional. On August 31, 2012, U.S. District Judge Peter Economus ruled on the side of the plaintiffs, agreeing that limiting early balloting to one group of voters over another violates the "constitutionally protected right to participate in the 2012 election -- and all elections -- on an equal basis with all Ohio voters.”[1] In practical terms, the judge granted a preliminary injunction to stop the secretary of state, whose office oversees elections, from enforcing the law, and ordered the previous in-person early voting schedule be restored.[2]

DeWine said that he would appeal the ruling to the Cincinnati-based U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. “We disagree with the ruling today...We have always allowed distinction for military voters, and to say this violates equal protection is wrong.”[1]

Ohio is considered a key swing state in the 2012 presidential election, owing to its 18 electoral college votes and relatively balanced electorate. No Republican has won a presidential election after losing Ohio; After the judge struck down the early-voting law, which could have favorably affected the Republican vote in the upcoming election,[3] Vice President Joe Biden remarked that a victory in Ohio would seal Obama's re-election.[1]

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