Yesterday, federal district judge Peter Economus issued an opinion and order in the ongoing dispute about early voting between the state of Ohio and Obama for America. In 2012, Economus issued a temporary injunction ordering the state to re-open early voting the weekend before Election Day, saying it was necessary to prevent an equal protection violation given the ability of military and overseas voters to cast early ballots up until the day before Election Day. After the parties were unable to reach an agreement on early voting – and Secretary of State Jon Husted issued a directive (2014-06) establishing uniform early voting hours for 2014 that included only the Saturday before Election Day – the federal court issued a permanent injunction requiring the state to provide pre-Election Day weekend early voting for all future elections.
… One aspect of this decision that I find interesting is the degree to which the Ohio Legislature has been sidelined in the debate over early voting. In the wake of yesterday’s order, almost everyone got what they wanted; plaintiffs got expanded early voting and the SoS got a commitment to uniformity, but the Legislature was essentially overruled on the differential treatment of overseas and military voters. Given the current state of election legislation in Ohio, I have to wonder if plaintiffs might not turn to the courts to force other changes – most notably, establishment of online voter registration for all current and prospective voters and not just those who wish to update their existing records. To date, the Legislature has refused to answer the SoS’ call to enact legislation to do just that – leading me to wonder if the conditions are right for a plaintiff to seek (and a judge to order) such a change.