U.S. Supreme Court

SCOTUS blocks early voting scheduled in Ohio for today; ACLU official predicts confusion

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Polls won’t be open today in Ohio after the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday stayed lower court rulings that restored early voting in the state.

The Supreme Court approved the stay in a 5-4 order, report the New York Times, the Washington Post, SCOTUSblog and the Columbus Dispatch. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen G. Breyer would not have granted the stay.

The order stays a ruling last week by the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding reinstatement of early voting because of concerns its elimination would disproportionately impact poor and black voters. The early voting week, cut by Ohio lawmakers in February, was the only time that same-day voter registration was allowed.

Ohio had argued that even with the elimination of the first week of early voting, the state still offered more early voting options than 41 states.

The American Civil Liberties Union had challenged the elimination of the early voting week. Freda Levenson, legal director of the ACLU of Ohio, told the Columbus Dispatch she feared “this last-minute decision will cause tremendous confusion among Ohioans about when and how they can vote” and could lead to voters showing up at the polls today.

SCOTUSblog notes “major constitutional issues” in the case, “especially on how far the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of legal equality applies to early voting opportunities, and how courts are to apply Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Section 2 has become newly important to challengers of voting restrictions since the Supreme Court last year struck down a key part of the 1965 [Voting Rights] Act, the part that triggers federal government veto power over changes in state election laws that may be racially discriminatory.”

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