Early Voting in Ohio

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Filed Under Predictions on Sep 30 

The right to vote has a long and fascinating, and yes controversial, history. Not stated as a specific right in the Constitution, it has traditionally been a state prerogative and has evolved through a series of amendments over the years which have, step by step, expanded the franchise of voters and usually has meant federal involvement in state rules on voting rights. Does any of this, strictly speaking, have anything to do with SCOTUS’ decision to delay early voting in Ohio? The court’s decision to not allow registration and early ballot casting at the same time was divided among conservative and liberal judges in a split 5 – 4 decision. Republican state officials are now pitted against black civil rights groups and church groups who say it will unfairly restrict african-american voters ability to cast their ballots. Once again, like in Georgia, we have a concerted rush to the finish line to register voters and loud posturing against anything that gets in the way of this rush. Once again, it must be asked why a steady year-long campaign to register voters was not employed, or if employed, was not successful enough. Ohio is a swing state of course, and no amount of voters on either side is enough for either party. It’s a matter of getting out as many voters as possible to try and move the vote in a close election. That’s electoral politics and almost all is fair in war and love and elections, but is it a negation of voter rights to roll back the start of early voting?

Early voting has become an increasingly important factor in Presidential elections, increasing from around 7% in 1992 to about 30% of votes cast in the 2008 election. It seems that SCOTUS has called a delay, (the voting in Ohio will start on Oct. 7, almost a month before Tuesday November 4), to establish some clarity over early voting in the face of partisan push-and-shove at the state level. Some form of early voting exists in all but 14 states according to the National Confederation of State Legislatures, so it seems to be a matter of dealing with the details of early voting rules across different states. Those who oppose early voting warn of fraud and in any rush to register voters in the weeks leading up to an election there is surely a gray area between sloppy paperwork and deliberate falsification. How much of a potential problem this may turn out to be, however, is a matter of debate. We now have to wait to see what further clarification may come from the court and wonder whether another amendment to the Constitution, one that deals with early voting, awaits voters in the US in the years ahead.

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