A federal court ruling Tuesday declaring Ohio GOP lawmakers’ voting restrictions unconstitutional could easily wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court — and generate a 4-4 split decision, a voting-rights expert says.
With high-stakes voting cases also working their way through courts in such states as Texas, North Carolina and Wisconsin, “There is sorely a need for clarification” of how the U.S. Constitution and the 1965 Voting Rights Act should be applied, said Rick Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California at Irvine.
But with the high court operating down one member, the status of election law could remain fractured among conflicting federal appeals court rulings for the 2016 presidential election, he said.
Judge Michael H. Watson of U.S. District Court in Columbus said the Republican-dominated Ohio legislature violated the federal constitution and Voting Rights Act in 2014 when it reduced the state’s early voting period from 35 to 28 days. The move also eliminated the so-called Golden Week in which eligible residents could register to vote and cast an absentee ballot at the same time.