Ohio officials asked a federal judge yesterday to hold off from immediately forcing the state to comply with his ruling last week that expands early voting this fall. U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus temporarily blocked an Ohio law that trims early voting, and he ordered the state’s elections chief to set an expanded voting schedule. Early voting would start on Sept. 30 instead of Oct. 7. Economus also barred Secretary of State Jon Husted from preventing local election boards from adopting early-voting hours beyond his order.
Articles about voting issues in Ohio.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted says eliminating “Golden Week” is necessary to ensure only Ohioans are voting in state elections. While speaking with editors for Gannett Ohio on Friday, the Republican incumbent said eliminating days when people can register to vote and cast a ballot on the same day is critical to deterring people from other states from coming to Ohio and participating in its elections. Previously, Ohio allowed early voting 35 days before an election — giving people a five-day Golden Week in which they could register and cast a ballot on the same day. The Ohio Legislature reduced early voting to 28 days before an election, eliminating this time. However, this past week U.S. District Judge Peter Economus blocked that law and restored the 35-day voting schedule. State officials, including Husted, are appealing that decision.
A federal court judge on Wednesday denied a request to stay his order restoring early voting cuts and allowing county boards of election to set additional hours while the state makes its appeal. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Jon Husted are appealing the decision to the U.S. 6th District Court of Appeals and on Tuesday requested a stay to avoid confusion among county boards of election. “Changing election rules so far into the election cycle disrupts the electoral process and threatens its fairness,” DeWine and Husted argued in their request. ”Any requirement that Secretary Husted issue a directive to county Boards of Elections, only to potentially issue a contravening order in a few weeks, would cause particular harm. Changing the days and hours now, only to have them potentially changed again in a few weeks, will create needless confusion that can be simply avoided by a stay of this Court’s Order pending appeal.”
A federal judge on Thursday struck down an Ohio campaign law making it illegal to lie about political candidates. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black overturned a post-Watergate law aimed at cleaning up the political process that came under challenge by two conservative groups on First Amendment grounds. Among its provisions is a ban on false statements during campaigns and on ballot initiatives. Judge Black, in his opinion, said the law placed an unjustifiable burden on free speech:
In short, the answer to false statements in politics is not to force silence, but to encourage truthful speech in response, and to let the voters, not the Government, decide what the political truth is. Ohio’s false-statements laws do not accomplish this, and the Court is not empowered to re-write the statutes; that is the job of the Legislature.
The decision came just days after the 8th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a century-old Minnesota statute that outlawed false statements about ballot proposals. The court that presided over the Ohio case is part of a different federal circuit.
In a ruling that could reverberate nationwide, a federal judge has struck down Ohio’s law barring people from knowingly or recklessly making false statements about candidates in a case that the U.S. Supreme Court said needed to be heard. U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black ruled Thursday that Ohio’s law, in effect since 1995, is unconstitutional and prohibited the Ohio Elections Commission and its members from enforcing the law. The judge said in his ruling that the answer to false statements in politics is “not to force silence, but to encourage truthful speech in response, and to let the voters, not the government, decide what the political truth is. Ohio’s false-statements laws do not accomplish this, and the court is not empowered to re-write the statutes; that is the job of the Legislature,” Black wrote. The Supreme Court in June found unanimously that an anti-abortion group should be able to challenge the law, in a case that grew out of a 2010 congressional race. The Susan B. Anthony List, an antiabortion group, had contended that the Ohio statute violated free speech rights and chilled a wide variety of political speech.
Democrats in the Ohio Senate on Tuesday called for a minimum number of early voting hours in the swing state, along with the flexibility for local elections boards to make their own schedules. The proposed legislation follows a federal court ruling last week in a dispute over two measures limiting early voting. One measure, a directive from Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, established uniform early voting times and restricted weekend and evening hours. The other is a GOP-backed law that eliminates so-called golden week, when people could both register to vote and cast ballots. Without them, early voting would typically start 28 or 29 days before Election Day instead of the prior 35-day window.
Ohio: Early voting ruling can be appealed by state lawmakers, federal judge says | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Ohio lawmakers on Monday joined Secretary of State Jon Husted in appealing a federal court order that nullified legislation enacted earlier this year and restored cuts to early voting in Ohio. U.S. Southern District Court Judge Peter C. Economus on Thursday ordered Husted to set early voting hours during evenings and on six early voting days cut by Republican-backed legislation earlier this year, and allow county boards of election to set hours in addition to the statewide, uniform hours for the November general election. Under the Sept. 4 court order, early, in-person voting would begin in Ohio on Sept. 30 instead of Oct. 7. Husted and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Monday jointly filed a motion to expedite their appeal in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Economus also instructed legislators to rewrite state law in accordance with his order.
Ohio cannot enforce a new state law for this election that reduced the number of days available for voters to cast absentee ballots by mail or in person, a federal judge ordered today. U.S. District Court Judge Peter C. Economus granted a preliminary injunction sought by the NAACP, the League of Women Voters of Ohio, and a group of African American ministers that effectively restores the full 35 days of early voting prior to the Nov. 4 general election. He found that the law is likely unconstitutional even though the state argued that its absentee voting options are more liberal than most states in the nation. His order requires Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, to add more evening voting hours and an additional Sunday to the hours he previously had set through a directive.
A federal judge blocked Republican-backed reductions in early voting opportunities in Ohio for the fall election today. U.S. District Court Judge Peter C. Economus granted a preliminary injunction against a GOP-backed bill that ended “Golden Week” — when people could register to vote and vote on the same day — and a February directive from Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted that lopped off some weekend and evening hours of early voting in some urban counties. Husted said he will appeal the ruling “because we can’t simultaneously treat people the same and differently. Today’s ruling kicks the door open to having different rules for voting in each of Ohio’s 88 counties, which is not fair and uniform and was not even acceptable to this court or the plaintiffs previously.”
A federal judge on Thursday blocked Ohio’s cuts to early voting and ordered the state to establish additional polling days before November’s elections, saying the reductions would disproportionately harm the poor and members of minority groups. The preliminary injunction issued by Judge Peter C. Economus was a setback for Gov. John R. Kasich, a Republican and vocal proponent of the measures, and could affect the upcoming elections in Ohio, a closely contested swing state. Judge Economus’s ruling directed Ohio to restore early voting during evenings and on at least two Sundays, and to reinstate Golden Week, the first week of early voting in which many African-American churches organize congregants to register and vote on the same day. Mr. Kasich and his supporters have said the measures were needed to reduce fraud, save money and create uniformity of practice across the state, and that the four-week early voting period allowed sufficient time for people to cast ballots. A spokesman for the state attorney general, Mike DeWine, said the state would review the ruling before deciding whether to appeal.