The heavy-handed court ruling probably gives the Obama campaign an edge in the vitally important battleground state.
Acceding to a lawsuit from the Obama campaign, part-time, semi-retired liberal judge Peter C. Economus last week voided provisions of an election reform law enacted in Ohio last year that gave military personnel extra time to vote in person.
Although the U.S. Constitution says nothing about early voting –in-person or otherwise– Economus ruled that Ohio’s new early voting legislation violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by giving military personnel an extra three days of in-person early voting. This amounts to a denial of non-soldiers’ “right to participate equally” in elections, wrote Economus, who was named to the post by President Clinton in 1995.
In 2011 Ohio enacted election reforms aimed at reducing long lines and giving poll workers an extra few days to update voter rolls. The new law eliminated in-person early voting on the weekend before Election Day and made the in-person early voting period uniform throughout the state.
The Ohio legislation removed Democrats’ unfair urban voting advantage. This standardization of early in-person voting days throughout Ohio had the effect of taking away three days for early in-person voting before Election Day that voters in only six, densely populated, Obama-leaning counties, had enjoyed.
Instead of all voters in those six Democratic counties being allowed to vote in the final days before Election Day, the new Ohio law allowed only the relatively few registered voters covered by the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter Act to vote early in-person up until the day before Election Day.
According to conservative commentator Mark Hyman, the Obama campaign’s lawsuit has never been about equal access to the polls. It was calculated to “give a voting advantage to Obama strongholds” in a vote-rich swing state.
In the 2008 general election, in-person early voting was permitted in the five weeks leading up to Election Day. Of Ohio’s 88 counties, 66 voted for Republican John McCain. The other 22 counties voted for Barack Obama.
Only six counties in the state opened their polling places the weekend before Election Day. All six were heavily populated and were carried by Obama. Those counties were Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Lucas, Montgomery and Summit within whose boundaries are the cities of Cleveland, Columbus,Cincinnati, Toledo, Dayton, and Akron, respectively, Hyman notes.
“Ohio is a swing state,” notes Hyman. “Whatever happens there affects us all.”
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