Can I vote before Election Day?
Lyle Denniston, the National Constitution Center’s adviser on constitutional literacy, looks at the Supreme Court’s decision to postpone some early voting in Ohio, and what the court could consider on the issue in the near future.
THE STATEMENTS AT ISSUE:
“This was an important ruling for protecting all Ohioans’ rights through their elected representatives to determine the state’s voting schedule rather than have the federal courts determine the schedule for them.”
—Excerpt from a statement Monday by Ohio Attorney General Michael DeWine after the Supreme Court had blocked a federal judge’s ruling that would have allowed voters in the state to start casting their ballots today for this year’s general election.
“While today’s order is not a final ruling on the merits, it will deprive many Ohioans of the opportunity to vote in the upcoming election as this case continues to make its way through the courts.”
– Excerpt from a statement Monday by Dale E. Ho, director of the Voting Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, reacting to the Supreme Court’s action.
WE CHECKED THE CONSTITUTION, AND…
The answers that the Constitution provides to questions about its meaning can depend upon how the questions are asked. Does the Constitution guarantee a right to cast an absentee ballot before election day? The answer is no, according to the Supreme Court. But does the Constitution guarantee a right to vote before election day, if that is the only way some voters can take part as a practical matter? The answer is maybe, and the Supreme Court could decide that issue during this year’s election cycle, although it has no binding duty to do so.
Suppose that the issue is approached differently. Does the Constitution give the states the sole power to decide when and how its citizens get to vote? The answer is no, according to the Supreme Court, because the Constitution does provide some limits. But does the Constitution give the courts the last word on that? The answer is almost certainly yes, and that is why the fate of early voting now rests with the Supreme Court, if it chooses to settle it.
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