Good News For Ohio Voters, For Now

This morning, a court in Ohio restored early voting days

The U.S. District Court of Southern Ohio ruled Tuesday that the deep cuts to Ohio’s early voting days signed into law by Gov. John Kasich (R) are “unconstitutional and…accordingly unenforceable.”

Judge Michael Watson sided with the Ohio Democratic Party, which had sued the state for sharply curtailing the number of early voting days. Since President Obama won reelection in 2012, Ohio’s Republican lawmakers and Secretary of State have voted to eliminate the days and times of early voting that were most convenient for those working full time: the weekend before election day, weekday evenings, and what’s known as “Golden Week,” the time about a month before election day when the registration period and the early voting period overlap.

These cuts, the judge wrote, “results in less opportunity for African Americans to participate in the political process than other voters.”

The court ordered the Republican governor and Secretary of State to once again allow voters to begin casting ballots 35 days before November’s presidential election. Republicans may appeal Tuesday’s ruling to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. [..]

Multiple studies have found that voters of color disproportionately rely on early voting, especially weekend days, and especially the “Golden Week” of same-day registration. Tens of thousands of people voted during “Golden Week” in 2012 alone, more than enough to sway an election in the tightly contested swing state.

“Many voters of color have inflexible work schedules that make coming to their polling place on a single Tuesday in November very difficult,” Mike Brickner, the Senior Policy Director for the ACLU of Ohio, told ThinkProgress. “Because of the historic and systemic oppression of African Americans in our voting system, many choose to take advantage of early in-person voting. In that community, mailing in your ballot is not favored choice, because it doesn’t feel as though it will really be counted.” Judge Watson agreed, saying in his ruling that “the record reflects that African Americans are distrustful of voting by mail.”

A bipartisan presidential commission also found that early voting helps reduce long lines and chaos on election day, something that has been a particular problem in recent Ohio elections. Judge Watson noted in his ruling that the state’s early voting cuts “will likely result in longer lines at the polls, thereby increasing the burdens for those who must wait in those lines and deterring voting.”

Republicans don’t want people of color or the working poor and low income, who are mostly Democrats, to vote and will do everything to stop them from exercising their rights. They have 5 months to fight this ruling. Hopefully, it will stand.