Registered Ohio voters who end up in jail the weekend before the election should be allowed to cast an absentee ballot, a federal judge ruled yesterday. U.S. District Court Judge S. Arthur Spiegel decided in a lawsuit filed by the Ohio Justice & Policy Center that he saw “no value in taking away this fundamental right, even for a short period of time.” Spiegel said since people who could afford to post bail could get out of jail and vote, preventing those who could not afford to post bail from voting poses an “unconstitutional wealth-based voting restriction.” Attorneys for the center said at least 400 people who were eligible were unable to vote in 2012 because they were in jail the weekend before the election.
“The right to vote is one of the most fundamental and cherished rights in a free and democratic society,” David Singleton, executive director of the center, said in a statement. “ People arrested the weekend before the election are presumed to be innocent. If they are registered and otherwise qualified to participate in the process, voting is still their right.”
The judge sided with Singleton’s argument that since the state makes special provision for voters hospitalized before an election, the same thing should be done for people who go to jail during that same time frame.