This will certainly go down as one of the last minute, whistle beating acts of the Supreme Court. Very nearly on the eve of the recently extended – and highly contentious – early voting period in Ohio, the Supreme Court has delivered a 5-4 decision overturning a lower court’s ruling and forcing the state to file a new petition if they want the case heard. SCOTUSblog has the details.
With just sixteen hours before polling stations were to open in Ohio, the Supreme Court on Monday afternoon blocked voters from beginning tomorrow to cast their ballots in this year’s general election. By a vote of five to four, the Justices put on hold a federal judge’s order providing new opportunities for voting before election day, beyond what state leaders wanted.
The order will remain in effect until the Court acts on an appeal by state officials. If that is denied, then the order lapses. It is unclear when that scenario will unfold. The state’s petition has not yet been filed formally.
The practical effect of the order will mean that, at the least, early voting will not be allowed this week — a period that supporters of early balloting have called “Golden Week.” That permits voters to register and cast their ballots on the same day.
This was essentially a party line vote, with Kennedy joining the usual cast of conservative justices. Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor voted against the action. Interestingly, there was a second request from the state legislature – acting as a Friend of the Court – asking for the same type of order. Justice Kagan turned down that request without comment and without passing it on to the rest of the justices. But the upshot of all this appears to be that even if a new appeal is filed, it will be nearly impossible for the court to act in time to change anything for this year’s elections.
Shortly after the order was read, the Ohio Secretary of State, Jon Husted, issued an order establishing the early voting times. If you follow that link and read the details, you will see that Buckeyes still have far more voting opportunities than most of the rest of us. Voting will still begin four weeks before the election – with the ability to register and vote on the same day – including Saturday voting two weeks before the election and Sunday on the final week. (Remember, New Yorkers… you still get a generous thirteen hours total.)
How this is viewed as some sort of injustice to minorities and the poor (read… Democrats) remains a mystery to me. Ohioans still essentially have a month to vote, which seems patently ridiculous. But then, the states each have the right to establish their own rules for casting ballots within established limits, so Ohio essentially gets what they voted for.
For a related, hyperbolic view on how the Supreme Court has completely failed to protect the rights of minorities, be sure to read Erwin Chemerinsky. It’s rather frightening to see how some people interpret what the job of the court is these days.
Update: An earlier version of this post misspelled Justice Breyer’s last name.