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Supreme Court Denies Democrats' Request For Ohio Anti-Voter Intimidation Order

A lower court judge had issued a broad order against voter intimidation, but the federal appeals court overruled that on Sunday, handing the Trump campaign a victory. The Democrats had asked the Supreme Court to step in.

Last updated on November 7, 2016, at 2:36 p.m. ET

Posted on November 6, 2016, at 11:53 a.m. ET

Donald Trump in Geneva, Ohio, last month.
Jeff Swensen / Getty Images

Donald Trump in Geneva, Ohio, last month.

UPDATE

On Monday afternoon, the Supreme Court denied Democrats' request to reinstate a trial court order barring the presidential campaigns and others from several activities views by the lower court as voter intimidation tactics.

A federal appeals court had issued a stay of that order, effectively reversing it, leading Democrats to ask the Supreme Court to reverse the appeals court. The justices denied the request so without even seeking a response from the Donald Trump campaign.

The Supreme Court issued a one-sentence order denying the request. Additionally, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a short statement noting that she denied the Democrats' request "[m]indful that Ohio law proscribes voter intimidation" — citing to and quoting from Ohio law: "'Harassment in violation of the election law' includes an 'improper practice or attempt tending to obstruct, intimidate, or interfere with an elector in registering or voting at a place of registration or election.'"

UPDATE

On Sunday night, Democrats went to the Supreme Court, asking Justice Elena Kagan to reinstate a trial court order banning the presidential campaigns and others from a variety of tactics that trial judge had ruled to be types of voter intimidation tactics.

The request comes less than 40 hours before polls will open on Election Day — and less than 12 hours after a federal appeals could halted enforcement of the trial court order.

The Trump campaign had, in part, argued at the appeals court that the order could restrict people's First Amendment rights. Before the Supreme Court, the Democrats' lawyers argue that any issues with the scope of the trial court's order should have led the appeals court to send the matter back to the trial court to address those concerns.

Because the appeals court instead simply stayed the lower court order, effectively nullifying it, and did not give the Democrats the chance to properly argue why the stay should not have been granted, the Democrats' lawyers argue to Justice Kagan, they call the appellate court's decision "a cursory order with no basis in law."

ORIGINAL REPORT

WASHINGTON — There will be no new anti-voter intimidation rules in place for elections in Ohio this week beyond those already existing under state and federal laws, a federal appeals court ruled on Sunday.

Current state and federal laws barring voter intimidation remain in effect; the decision only halts enforcement of a new court order that was issued on Friday.

The decision reversed a lower court judge who had granted Democrats' request to issue an order barring the Donald Trump campaign, Roger Stone Jr., and his Stop the Steal group "from conspiring to intimidate, threaten, harass, or coerce voters on Election Day."

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Sunday morning halted enforcement of US District Court Judge James Gwin's order that would have prevented a wide group of people associated with both presidential campaigns in Ohio — and potentially all people in Ohio — from engaging in a variety of actions that Gwin had determined were impermissible voter intimidation-related actions.

Those actions included "[h]indering or delaying a voter or prospective voter from reaching or leaving the polling place" or "[i]nterrogating, admonishing, interfering with, or verbally harassing voters or prospective voters inside polling places."

Gwin's order also, however, included more broad prohibitions, including "[g]athering or loitering, or otherwise being present without the intention to vote, at polling places" and "[f]ollowing, taking photos of, or otherwise recording voters or prospective voters, those assisting voters or prospective voters, or their vehicles at or around a polling place."

The Trump campaign appealed the order, arguing that the order by Gwin — a Democratic appointee — wasn't justified and that it risked violating people's First Amendment rights.

Reviewing the district court's order, the appeals court sided with the Trump campaign and issued a stay, effectively nullifying Gwin's order for Tuesday's election.

"[W]e conclude that the Plaintiff did not demonstrate before the district court a likelihood of success on the merits, and that all of the requisite factors weigh in favor of granting the stay," the court concluded in the two-page decision.

Judges Alice Batchelder, John Rogers, and Richard Allen Griffin — all Republican appointees — participated in Sunday's decision.

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