The Uniformity Question and Early Voting: Ohio and North Carolina

Via Doug Chapin comes news today from WFAE that some North Carolina want to cut back further on early voting. This comes after Ohio SOS Husted announced uniform rules for hours for early voting throughout Ohio. Husted’s announcement was controversial because he eliminated Sunday voting, which has been used by some African-American organizations for a “souls to the polls” push to go vote from church.

Doug cautions that it is easy to read the North Carolina cutbacks as a partisan means of suppressing the vote, but that would be wrong in North Carolina’s case:

What might get lost in the fierce partisan debate is the fact these requests are bipartisan and have far more to do with how much early voting is costing some communities compared to the number of voters using it…North Carolina’s efforts to adapt to the new early voting hours echoes similar disputes in Ohio, Georgia and elsewhere – where tension has emerged between the desire to establish statewide standards that are fair to all voters and the reality that different communities have different resources and differing ideas of what “convenience” means in the early voting context.

One might think that uniformity avoids issues of partisanship. So this flips things on its head: uniformity might work to serve partisan goals and lack of uniformity  might have a good, non-partisan reason.

This is an issue we will have to think more closely about. Ohio SOS Husted has long taken the position that he requires uniformity throughout the state, and uniformity in at least some things could be required by Bush v. Gore. But if some large urban (likely Democratic) counties have more demand for early voting, and a desire for voting on Sundays, maybe they should get more early voting time.  And if some small, rural (likely Republican) counties have less demand for early voting, maybe they need not have the expense of early voting time that few will use.  But there’s still the question of how to deal with partisan bias: what if the small rural county wants to cut back on early voting because it is rarely used except by students—students who may tend to vote for Democrats?

 

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