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Victory in Ohio: Appellate Court Upholds Restoration of Early Voting for All on Weekend Before Election Day

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Headlined to H2 10/5/12

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Cross-posted from The Brad Blog

Rightwing media, Romney attempt to lie to voters about case is ignored by court. Again...


Via Ryan Reilly at TPM:

"The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that Ohio must make early voting during the three days before the election available to all voters if it's available to military members and voters who live overseas. The ruling upheld a lower court's decision.

"'The State's asserted goal of accommodating the unique situation of members of the military, who may be called away at a moment's notice in service to the nation, is certainly a worthy and commendable goal,' the court ruled. 'However, while there is a compelling reason to provide more opportunities for military voters to cast their ballots, there is no corresponding satisfactory reason to prevent non-military voters from casting their ballots as well.'"

In short, the attempt by Ohio Republicans to keep Democratic-leaning voters, who turned out in droves to support Obama in 2008 on the final weekend before Election Day from voting, has failed yet again.

A three-judge panel on the 6th Circuit of Appeals has upheld, as our legal analyst Ernie Canning describes it, "every aspect of" the lower court's ruling in August. The ruling comes as yet another stinging defeat for Ohio Republicans and Sec. of State Jon Husted (R) and their attempt to restrict voting rights in the Buckeye State. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling is available here [PDF].

This case began as an attempt by the Obama campaign and Democrats to restore voting rights removed by Republicans, for no reason other than to disenfranchise voters. It became widely public, as a blatant lie by the editor of Breitbart.com who lied about Obama attempting to keep military voters from being able to vote. It was then advanced by Fox "News" and even the Romney campaign who repeated the lie, and it all recently culminated in an apology to the court by Ohio's Secretary of State who had attempted to ignore the lower court's ruling which was ultimately upheld today.

Despite all of those embarrassments, and today's latest court victory, there remains a bit of wiggle room for the OH GOP if they still wish to attempt to keep voters -- or, as the Republican Party Chair and Election Board Commissioner of Franklin County (Columbus), OH put it, "the urban -- read African American -- voter-turnout machine" -- from exercising their right to vote during the final three days before the November 6th Presidential Election...

As we explained in detail in early August, Breitbart.com Editor-in-Chief Mike Flynn wrote a blatantly dishonest article headlined "OBAMA CAMPAIGN SUES TO RESTRICT MILITARY VOTING."  The lie was happily picked up whole hog by Fox and even by Mitt Romney who posted on his Facebook page that the Obama campaign was attempting to "undermine" military voting rights, which the GOP nominee described as an "outrage."

It might, indeed, have been an "outrage," if that's what the Obama camp had sued to do. But they didn't. As the very first sentence of the Obama lawsuit [PDF] read, they were suing "to restore in-person early voting for all Ohioans during the three days prior to Election Day."

The complaint was against the series of legislative tricks enacted by the OH GOP which resulted in only active-duty military members being allowed to cast an Early Absentee Vote in the state in the three days before the election.

Former Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner (D) -- who initially oversaw the successful implementation of Early Voting in Ohio in 2008, following the disastrous 2004 Presidential Election administrated by her predecessor (and Bush/Cheney Campaign co-chair) Sec. of State J. Kenneth Blackwell (R), when some voters waited as long as 12 hours to vote on Election Day -- described the GOP's scheme to us during an exclusive interview as "clearly aimed at 'Souls to the Polls.'" That is the name used to describe the popular effort by African-American churches to encourage their congregations to get out and vote on the Sunday before Election Day. More than 100,000 voters cast their ballot during that weekend in 2008.

In late August, U.S. District Court Judge Peter Economus ruled against the Ohio Republicans and ordered that their restrictions on Early Voting for all, in those three days, be immediately lifted.

Sec. of State Husted attempted to work around that order, issuing a directive to county election officials, instructing them that they didn't need to set new hours for voting during that weekend, because he intended to appeal Economus' ruling.

Economus was not happy and ordered Husted to personally appear before him. A chastened Husted filed a motion apologizing to the court in early September.

Last last month, the veteran's advocacy group VoteVets.org filed an amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) brief in Husted's appeal to the 6th Circuit, noting that there were some 900,000 Ohio veterans who would be similarly unable to vote under the GOP voting restriction. Moreover, they argued, even active duty military could be kept from voting during that weekend, since the hours for voting were being left up to county election officials, many of whom had voted against weekend and evening Early Voting hours in the past several months.

Today, the 6th Circuit's three-judge panel upheld Economus' initial ruling in full, removing the GOP restrictions on Early Voting for all in the three days before Election Day in the Buckeye State.

There remain some options, however, for the GOP if they still hope to keep voters from voting during those days.

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Brad Friedman publishes Bradblog.com
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There actually is a common sense argument to limit... by Dave Kilby on Saturday, Oct 6, 2012 at 10:17:32 AM
You hit the nail but not too hard. You even can no... by Ethan Hollow on Saturday, Oct 6, 2012 at 2:08:29 PM
Am open opponent of current system of 2 party mono... by Ethan Hollow on Saturday, Oct 6, 2012 at 1:55:41 PM