High Court Declines to Stay Ohio Early Voting and Same-Day Registration Case

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By Hans von Spakovsky

Bad news for the Ohio Democratic party: On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a one-line order denying the party’s application for a stay in Ohio Democratic Party v. Husted — the eminently reasonable opinion recently issued by a panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals refusing to overturn changes in early voting and same-day registration rules enacted by the Ohio legislature.

For once, amid a recent rash of highly problematic opinions by federal courts on election issues including voter ID, early voting, and same-day registration, some common sense finally prevailed (although that may be simply because of a split vote on the Court; the order doesn’t say how the justices voted). All we know is that the attempt to get a stay failed after Justice Elena Kagan “referred” the request to the Court for consideration.

The decision that Democrats were attempting to stay in a George Soros–financed lawsuit was issued on August 23. It reversed a decision by a district-court judge that misapplied the law and misconstrued the facts. The Sixth Circuit held that reducing the number of early voting days from 35 to 29, and eliminating “Golden Week,” a six-day window in which Ohio residents could register and vote at the same time (same-day registration), was neither unconstitutional nor a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

In categorically rejecting claims made by the Ohio Democratic party that Ohio’s law violated the 14th Amendment, the Sixth Circuit commendably refused to follow the pattern of the federal courts that have ruled in favor of similar challenges to changes in early voting and same-day registration in other states. As the Sixth Circuit pointed out, even with “only” 29 days of early voting, Ohio is “a national leader when it comes to early voting opportunities.” This is “really quite generous” since the Constitution doesn’t require that any state give voters the ability to vote before Election Day. In fact, early voting is a relatively new development — Texas was the first state to allow early voting starting in the late 1980s and “as many as thirteen states offer just one day for voting: Election Day.”

Are we to believe that those 13 states are violating the Constitution, or that all of the states that did not have early voting for our entire history until the last three decades were violating the Constitution that entire time because they forced their voters to vote only on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November? In fact, it could be argued that allowing different periods of early voting in different states violates the Constitution, since Article II, Section 1 says, for example, that when it comes to presidential elections, while Congress may determine the “Time of chusing the [presidential]Electors,” that “Day shall be the same throughout the United States.”

Similarly, only about a dozen states allow same-day registration. Yet are we supposed to believe, as the district-court judge erroneously ruled (and as other judges have ruled in other cases), that not allowing same-day registration is unconstitutional or a violation of the Voting Rights Act?

Read more of ACRU Policy Board member Hans von Spakovsky’s National Review article.

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