The high-stakes presidential contest for votes in the key battleground state of Ohio reached the Supreme Court late Sunday night, with the state Democratic party seeking a ruling to put back into effect a Cleveland judge’s order banning voter intimidation or harassment of voters. The judge’s order, issued Friday, was blocked earlier Sunday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
The state Democrats asked that the Court either lift the Sixth Circuit Court’s order pending an appeal, or go ahead and rule directly on the dispute and then issue its own order against tactics by the Donald Trump presidential campaign and its associates not to do “poll-watching” that amounts to any kind of a threat to voters, especially minority voters.
The filing went to Justice Elena Kagan, who handles emergency matters for the geographic area that includes Ohio. She has the authority to act on her own, or to share the matter with her colleagues. On this kind of election campaign issue raised close to election day, it is common for the full Court to step in.
Besides asking for protection of voters’ rights, the Democrats’ filing complained that the Sixth Circuit Court’s three-judge panel blocked enforcement of the Cleveland judge’s order without even asking the Democrats for a response to the challenge by the Trump organization, and without actually reviewing the facts that had been assembled in the District Court, leading to Friday’s order.
U.S. District Judge James S. Gwin stressed in his order that it did not interfere with any legal activities at or near polling places, but was aimed only at the specific kind of tactics that would tend to discourage voters from going ahead to cast their ballots or harassing them after they voted.
Although the Democrats’ challenge to such tactics was aimed directly at the Trump campaign and an allied organization, called “Stop the Steal,” Judge Gwin also had included similar restrictions on any such efforts by the Hillary Clinton campaign, to make the order apply equally.
The Trump campaign took the dispute to the Sixth Circuit Court, arguing that the Gwin order would violate its First Amendment rights by banning political activity that is normal around polling places.