The Supreme Court Monday denied an emergency request from the Ohio Democratic Party to put on hold provisions of two election laws concerning absentee and provisional ballots in the battleground state.
The Democrats, joined by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, objected to parts of the laws that require absentee and provisional ballots be rejected – unless the voters have “perfectly” filled in five fields of information on the forms accompanying the ballots.
A federal appeals court largely upheld the two laws, and the Democrats had asked the Supreme Court to partially stay that ruling, pending appeal. In a one-sentence order the Supreme Court declined to do so.
In court papers, lawyers for the Democrats argued that the so called “perfect form” requirements were in effect for two general elections while the litigation was pending and “those elections demonstrated the requirements’ pernicious effect, disenfranchising thousands of eligible voters, including for errors as trivial as writing a name legibly in cursive instead of Roman letters, omitting a zip code from an otherwise accurate address, writing the current date rather than a birthdate.”
They asked for a stay which they argued would allow Ohio’s county elections boards to determine voters’ eligibility and identity without every field on the accompanying form from being completed with technical perfection.
Ohio Attorney General Michael DeWine responded in court papers that in the 2014 and 2015 elections the laws affected “only a small number” of ballots relative to the over 3 million votes cast each time. They say that of the 128,676 provisional ballots case in those elections, only 620 of the 16,942 were rejected for deficiencies in the birthdate or address fields. Of the 1.29 million absentee ballots cast, only 1,712 were rejected for deficiencies in the birthdate or address fields.
Dewine also argued that the groups had waited too long to bring the challenge.
“Ohioans have been voting for weeks under the standards” set by the lower court, he argued, and added that the secretary of state has already issued directives and held training for workers which would be “upended” if the court “switched direction now.”