Jon Husted, Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, is going to the mat to impose cuts to early voting, and he’s asking the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on his behalf. His office is framing its fight for the cuts – which already been found to discriminate against blacks and Hispanics – as a matter of “protecting states’ rights.” Late Thursday, Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine filed documents asking the nation’s highest court for an emergency stay to reverse a ruling by a federal appeals court panel on Wednesday. The decision earlier in the week upheld an injunction blocking the cuts from taking effect during this fall’s elections. Earlier on Thursday, Husted and DeWine filed a separate appeal for a rehearing of the case by the full appeals court. The cuts are being challenged by a coalition of civil and voting rights groups led by the ACLU. A full trial on the cuts is scheduled for next year.
In an email to reporters announcing the Supreme Court brief, Matthew McClellan, a spokesman for Husted, portrayed the controversy as a battle over state sovereignty. “There are bigger issues at play that whether Ohioans vote over 35 or 28 days,” McClellan wrote. “[T]his is another step in protecting state’s rights.”
The brief itself makes that states’ rights argument, among others. “The Court has also noted that our constitutional structure requires Congress to include a clear statement if it intends to take away traditional state powers,” lawyers for Ohio wrote. “State law, of course, has long governed elections.”
In February, Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature cut the early voting period from 35 to 28 days, citing the need for uniformity across the state. The period that was cut was known as “Golden Week,” when Ohioans can register and vote on the same day. Same-day registration is among the most effective ways to bring new voters into the process, experts say. Days later, Husted issued a directive that ended Sunday voting and weekday voting past 5 p.m. Many African-American churches have in past years conducted “Souls to the Polls” drives on Sundays after services.