A federal judge agreed and ordered the state to let everyone cast in-person absentee ballots on those three days. That decision was upheld by a panel of the Sixth US Circuit Court of Appeals.
The lower courts found that early voting tended to be used by women, older and lower-income voters, and a significant number of African-Americans. The election law changes posed more than just an inconvenience or burden to those voters, the courts said.
The judges concluded that potentially “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.”
The state’s explanation for the voting change (to allow election boards to prepare for Election Day) did not justify the potential disenfranchisement of those voters, the courts ruled.
The appeals court cited the controversial US Supreme Court decision Bush v. Gore: “Having once granted the right to vote on equal terms, the state may not, by later arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person’s vote over that of another.”
In the Ohio case, the lower courts ordered state election officials to offer early voting to all voters on the three days prior to the election.
Ohio officials last week asked the Supreme Court to temporarily block the ruling and allow the state law to take full effect for the approaching election. On Tuesday, the court rejected the request without comment.
Ohio officials had argued that the appeals court judges wrongly concluded that selectively allowing military voters to engage in in-person absentee voting on the three days prior to Election Day would undermine other Ohio voters’ fundamental right to cast a ballot.