COLUMBUS, Ohio » Ohio’s election chief said today he will appeal a ruling by a federal court that reinstates the final three early voting days in the battleground state.
Secretary of State Jon Husted is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether the state Legislature or federal courts should set Ohio election laws.
Husted called Friday’s decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals "an unprecedented intrusion" into how states run elections. The court returned discretion to set hours on the final three days to local boards of elections.
"As a swing state, we in Ohio expect to be held to a high standard and level of scrutiny when it comes to elections," Husted, a Republican, said in a statement. "However, it’s troubling that the federal courts have failed to recognize that there isn’t another state in the union which can claim Ohio’s broad menu of voting options and opportunity to vote."
President Barack Obama’s campaign and Democrats had sued Husted and Ohio’s attorney general over part of a law cutting off early voting for most residents on the Friday evening before a Tuesday election. The law makes an exception for military personnel and Ohio voters living overseas.
Husted’s challenge came on a day when Obama was campaigning in the state, timing a rally at the Ohio State University campus to the final day of voter registration in the state.
The 6th Circuit decision affirmed a lower court ruling from August. U.S. District Judge Peter Economus said he expected Husted to direct all county elections boards to maintain a specific, consistent schedule on the three final days before Election Day.
Democrats had argued everyone should have the chance to vote on those three days before the election. They said a series of changes by state lawmakers had arbitrarily eliminated the opportunity for most Ohio residents to vote in person on those days, while giving military or overseas voters the chance to do so.
Attorneys for the state said many laws already grant military personnel special voting accommodations, such as requirements for states to send absentee ballots to them 45 days before the election. And they contend local boards also need those three days to prepare for the election.
But Economus said the voters’ right to cast ballots in person on those days outweighs the state’s reasons for limiting that opportunity.
The judge issued a preliminary injunction on Aug. 31, concluding that the state’s law was unconstitutional in changing the in-person early voting deadline and that the state was wrongly valuing certain votes above others.
Before the changes to the law, local boards of elections previously set early voting hours on those three final days. And weekday hours and weekend voting varied among the state’s counties.
Democrats estimated in their lawsuit that 93,000 people voted during the final three-day window before the 2008 election.