Innocent Until Proven Guilty, But Denied the Right to Vote

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Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC), Dēmos and the MacArthur Justice Center filed a class action lawsuit challenging Ohio’s policy of disenfranchising eligible voters arrested just prior to the election and held in detention through Election Day. 

Under Ohio’s current system, eligible voters who are held pretrial by the state are being unconstitutionally denied their fundamental right to vote. The disenfranchisement of these eligible voters violates the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

We know that democracy works best when all citizens van vote without barriers. Under Ohio law, individuals who are held in detention while awaiting trial do not forfeit their voting rights. The state already delivers ballots to jails, including on the Monday before the election and on Election Day itself, if those ballots were requested prior to the absentee ballot deadline.  However, eligible voters arrested and held on or after 5:00pm on Friday, November 2 who are registered to vote in Ohio are not able to vote absentee because the request deadline has passed. 

Ohio currently has a procedure for eligible voters who discover in the days leading up to an election that they are unable to reach the polls due to unforeseen hospitalization. Eligible voters held in county jails could be easily accommodated by granting them access to the procedure available to late-hospitalized voters.

In addition to the class action lawsuit, the three groups also filed a temporary restraining order on seeking to allow individuals who are held in pretrial detention in county jails to exercise their fundamental right to vote by casting an absentee ballot in today’s election.

In October, CLC sent a demand letter to Secretary Husted informing him of Ohio’s lack of policy concerning late-jailed voters and outlined options the state could pursue to rectify the situation. CLC argued how Ohio was in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution by not affording late-jailed voters an option to cast a ballot. Learn more by visiting our case page.