In a decision generating interest both the locally and nationally a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit upheld a preliminary injunction which reinstates Ohio’s early in-person (EIP) voting period of 35 days (from 28 days) and allows county officials to adopt additional EIP hours. In doing so, the panel upheld the district court’s analysis that Ohio’s interest in preventing voter fraud, reducing election cost, and maintaining election uniformity were not sufficient to justify the burden imposed on minorities and low-income voters through the reduced availability of EIP voting. Specifically, the panel held that the district court properly applied the flexible Anderson-Burdick balancing test to the plaintiffs’ Equal Protection challenge, and that the “undisputed” record supported the district court’s injunction. The panel also held that the district court properly found the plaintiffs likely to succeed on their challenge of the EIP restrictions under § 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
With only 39 days to go until the election and early voting now set to begin on Tuesday, Ohio officials have petitioned the Sixth Circuit for en banc review of the dispute. As of this morning, that petition is still pending. Ohio officials have also asked the Supreme Court to intervene, which, as of this morning, is also pending. This highly salient dispute remains a fluid situation with a ticking clock that could turn in any number of directions. But for now, the polls open on Tuesday.