Decision on Ohio early voting pending with the Supreme Court

New developments have arisen for Ohio's early voting laws, with voting currently set to begin tomorrow. Last Wednesday, a three-judge panel from the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a decisionupholding the injunction granted by the District Court, which prevented the state from implementing voting laws that provided for less early voting time. We discussed the lower court's decision in early September,here.

In an opinion drafted by Judge Karen Nelson Moore, the Sixth Circuit found that the district court did not err in giving credit to statistical evidence presented to it and used an appropriate standard of review. It also found that the Plaintiffs were likely to succeed on claims that the laws violated both the Equal Protection Clause and Voting Rights Act, and thus affirmed the decision of the lower court, enjoining the measures that restricted early voting times.

According to SCOTUS Blog, Defendants (state officials) have now requested a hearing of the matter by the Sixth Circuit in its entirety and filed a request with the U.S. Supreme Court to postpone the lower court's order. Defendants alternatively requested that the Supreme Court hear the case itself. Defendants claim that the order of the lower court infringes on the state's right to run its own elections and that the court's underlying analysis of the law is incorrect. The Ohio legislature has also filed its own emergency application for stay.

The Plaintiffs (Ohio NAACP et al.) filed a brief in response over the weekend, urging the Court to allow the lower court's decision to stand. Plaintiffs argue, in part, that this will simply maintain the status quo and cause no harm to Defendants. Defendants filed a final response on Sunday morning, citing among other issues, Plaintiffs' alleged delay in requesting to enjoin the measures, which were established in February, as reason to grant the stay.

SCOTUS Blog reports that all requests were filed with Justice Elena Kagan, who handles emergency matters arising from the Sixth Circuit. She can now decide whether to rule on this alone, or with input from the Court in its entirety. Possible outcomes include a ruling either postponing the lower court's order or declining to postpone it, or a decision for the Court to hear the case without waiting for anything further to happen in the lower courts. If Justice Kagan or the Court postponed the lower court's order then early voting would not begin tomorrow. The request for an en banc hearing is also still pending in the Sixth Circuit.