A federal judge on Wednesday denied a request from the Ohio Legislature to become part of a lawsuit challenging early voting rules in the key swing state. The Republican-controlled General Assembly had sought to be among the lawsuit’s defendants, which include the state’s attorney general and elections chief. Attorneys argued that lawmakers had a right to defend the statutes they enact. But U.S. District Judge Peter Economus said the General Assembly failed to convince the court that its position differed from the current defendants. He also questioned the timing of the legislature’s request to intervene, saying it came more than two months after the lawsuit was filed in May. “The General Assembly has offered no reason justifying this delay,” Economus wrote. Attorneys have asked the judge to reconsider, saying they have complied with the court’s schedule.
Jason Mauk, the Ohio Senate’s chief of staff, said GOP leaders worked in consultation with the attorney general on their filing. He noted the lawsuit came as lawmakers wrapped up their spring voting sessions.
“We felt that the General Assembly was best suited to defend the constitutionality of the law that we enacted and the attorney general supported that decision,” Mauk said in an interview.
The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, along with predominantly black churches and the Ohio Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. It specifically challenges two changes to the state’s early voting rules this year.