Following State and Federal Court Rulings, Early Voting Starts in Ohio

From the NY Times:

In a defeat for Republican challenges, state and federal courts have cleared the way for a weeklong period in which new voters can register and cast an absentee ballot on the same day in Ohio.

The early voting begins Tuesday and runs through Oct. 6. The Ohio Supreme Court and a federal judge in Cleveland on Monday upheld the weeklong voting period. Later in the day, Judge George Smith of Federal District Court in Columbus declined to rule, deferring to the Ohio Supreme Court decision…

The disputed voting window results from an overlap between Tuesday’s beginning of absentee voting 35 days before Election Day, and the Oct. 6 end of voter registration…

In a 4-to-3 decision, the Ohio Supreme Court said [Ohio Secretary of State] Ms. Brunner was correct in ruling that voters do not need to be registered for at least 30 days before receiving an absentee ballot, as Republicans had argued…

Earlier Monday, Judge James S. Gwin of Federal District Court in Cleveland issued a temporary restraining order forcing Madison County to follow Ms. Brunner’s instructions. The county had said that on the advice of its county prosecutor it was not going to allow same-day voting.

While the Court has not yet released its full opinion, it apparently interpreted an Ohio law requiring voters to be registered for 30 days before they are eligible to vote to mean they must be registered 30 days before their ballots were counted, rather than 30 days before their ballots were cast. Since early voting ballots are still not counted until after polls close on election day this distinction means the one-week overlap period is permissible.

In keeping with the Constitution’s textual and historic emphasis on voting rights, this ruling wisely interprets an ambiguous rule in favor of access to the ballot box. The idea of popular sovereignty – what Lincoln called a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people – was the greatest innovation of the U.S. Constitution. Over the last 220 years, Americans have fought to amend the Constitution to guarantee the right to vote to racial minorities (15th Amendment), women (19th Amendment), and young Americans (26th Amendment), as well as to eliminate poll taxes (24th Amendment), require direct election of U.S. Senators (the 17th Amendment) and grant residents of the District of Columbia a voice in Presidential elections (23rd Amendment). In all, six Amendments expand the right to vote under our Constitution.

We the People have thus made clear that we hold sacred the right to vote. This Constitutional tradition of protecting that right should not go forgotten this (or any) election season.