Voting rights groups file lawsuit requesting that Ohioans in police custody be allowed to vote

Voting rights groups file lawsuit requesting that Ohioans in police custody be allowed to vote
© Greg Nash

Three organizations that work on voting rights issues have filed a lawsuit in a federal court in Ohio requesting that a judge order election officials and law enforcement around the state to provide emergency absentee ballots to Ohioans who remain in police custody through Election Day.

The Campaign Legal Center, MacArthur Justice Center and left-leaning think tank Demos on Tuesday filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio requesting an emergency order from the judge to be directed to officials statewide that would require officers to notify detainees of their rights to submit an absentee ballot.

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The lawsuit argues that it would violate the First and 14th amendments to deny people the right to vote because they are in custody. The state delivers ballots to jailed Ohioans, but the deadline for requesting such a ballot passed on Friday, Nov. 2, leaving some recently-arrested Ohioans without an option for voting, it states.

"We just filed this emergency lawsuit to protect the rights of eligible #Ohio voters who were recently arrested and are being held in jail, unable to get to the polls today," Demos's director of legal strategies tweeted.

"[E]ligible voters who are arrested in the days before #ElectionDay are being unconstitutionally denied the right to vote because they are excluded from the state's emergency absentee ballot procedure," the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) said in its own tweet.

"These are eligible voters who have no other means of voting because of Ohio election law as it currently stands," the CLC's senior legal counsel Mark Gaber told BuzzFeed News.

Ohio is the site of several high-profile elections this Tuesday, including the state's gubernatorial race between Richard CordrayRichard Adams CordrayThe road to the White House still goes through Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan announces presidential run Sherrod Brown says he will not run for president MORE (D) and Mike DeWine (R), as well as the battle for Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Budowsky: 2020 Dems should debate on Fox Overnight Health Care: How 2020 Dems want to overhaul health care | Brooklyn parents sue over measles vaccination mandate | Measles outbreak nears record MORE's (D) seat between Brown and Rep. Jim RenacciJames (Jim) B. RenacciGOP rep: If Mueller had found collusion, ‘investigation would have wrapped up very quickly’ House Ethics Committee extends probe into Renacci Sherrod Brown says he has 'no real timetable' for deciding on 2020 presidential run MORE (R).

Republicans are looking to Brown's Senate seat as a potential pickup as the party hopes to keep control of the upper chamber, where the GOP holds a two-seat advantage over Democrats.