The U.S. Supreme Court got it wrong. Recently, the court split along political lines, voting 5-4 in an emergency order that would deny Ohio voters access to voting on the Sunday before Election Day. They overturned several previous Ohio rulings by a federal judge and the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals that denied an attempt to close polls as an early voting option.
The recent history of early voting in Ohio probably occurred because of Election Day 2004. That election cycle, which became a nationally reported disaster, when many voters waited in line for hours to cast their ballot. Adding to that failure were the consequences of many cities failing to provide sufficient voting machines to match the turnout.
Ohio’s answer, and it was a good one, resulted in extending the voting period for up to 35 days before the election (including weekends), described by one journalist as “one of the nation’s most generous early-voting policies.” Coincidently, early voting options was floated in our state but, was met by Governor Christie's veto.
It would appear that Ohio swung Democratic in the 2008 and 2012 presidential cycles, in part due to the minority vote. After the 2012 election however, the Republican Party had other ideas. They canceled the first week of voting, which allowed voters to both register and cast a vote simultaneously. Furthermore, they canceled the option to vote early, three days before an election, which includes Sunday.
This is partisan politics at its worst. Exacerbating the issue is that all of these laws were passed under the guise of ensuring voter integrity and preventing fraud. However, there has been no empirical data to support the claim of widespread voter fraud being a problem in Ohio or elsewhere. In my opinion, there is simply no reason to place impediments in front of anyone who is a qualified voter. None. Whatever arguments one might have made regarding the voting timetable, the results from recent years clearly demonstrate that in Ohio, and other early voting states, that it was both popular and widely used.
Expanding access to our democracy is a good thing. Government should not put up roadblocks on the road to our democracy. The idea that any branch of our government would keep their "bosses", aka the citizens of their state, from exercising their vote is unconscionable. It threatens the very foundation on which our government stands and sullies the electoral process.
Given that partisan politics is what changed the voting landscape in 2012 and that research has shown that minorities appeared to be the most frequent“users” of this extended voting period, they have coated this entire episode with more than a hint of prejudice and voter disenfranchisement. I have great respect for the Supreme Court. In this instance, however, there is absolutely no harm in keeping the original law on the books, especially when the attempt is so blatantly obvious that the change is designed to confuse and to impede voters from going to the polls. I confess that the Supreme Court’s decision is dumbfounding.
The timing of this decision is critical with November elections descending upon us. The Supreme Court could have other election-year disputes. Arkansas, Wisconsin, Texas and North Carolina also face pending court challenges to overtly partisan voting restrictions that take effect this year, according to news reports.
Removing the aura of political shenanigans associated with voting is essential to the preservation of belief in our electoral process. If any political party is to survive, they must speak to the hearts and minds of ALL people. The actions by those legislators to block the accessibility of voting in Ohio simply remind many voters, not just minorities, that they only want you to vote on their terms and not yours. That's my take, what's yours?