Less than 24 hours before the start of Ohio’s would-be voting period, the Supreme Court blocked efforts to restore a full seven days of early voting in the state, marking a win for the Republican-controlled legislature that enacted the new voting restrictions.
The Supreme Court’s order offered no opinion or explanation, but Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer would have ruled differently. The ruling removes the first week of Ohio’s 35-day early voting period. Those first seven days are the only time same-day registration is permitted in Ohio – a process most often used by people of color.
The order, issued on Monday, comes less than a full week after the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that voters could begin casting ballots as early as today. In making its ruling, the Sixth Circuit noted that a shortened early voting period would have a disproportionate impact on low-income and African American voters throughout the state. The ruling prompted the state to file an emergency application with the Supreme Court, arguing that “all told, Ohio offers more early voting options than 41 other states and the District of Columbia.”
This weekend, the NAACP and the ACLU requested that the Supreme Court not get involved in the Ohio case. The groups said the appeals court decision, “merely preserves the same early voting opportunities that have been in place for the last four general elections,” and cited the confusion the high court’s involvement would cause in the immediate election cycle.
According to SCOTUSBlog, Ohio’s expansion of early voting was adopted by the state legislature following questionable and widespread poll delays in the 2004 general election. However, the state argued that the appeals court was using a now outdated method to measure whether Ohio provided an “equal opportunity to vote,” explicitly referencing the Supreme Court’s overhaul of a key component of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, meant to defend against targeted voter disenfranchisement.
Commenting on the Supreme Court order, Nan Aron, the President of the Alliance for Justice, said, “Let’s cut to the chase. The changes Ohio is implementing have one purpose and one purpose only: to make it harder for minorities and poor people to vote. The Sixth Circuit saw through this sham. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court majority has chosen to weigh in on the side of voter suppression.”
Media Resources: Supreme Court of the United States 9/29/14; New York Times 9/29/14; SCOTUSBlog 9/29/14; Alliance for Justice 9/29/14; Feminist Newswire 2/25/14