In a major victory for Ohioans, a federal judge has blocked the Ohio GOP’s attempt to cut early voting and eliminate same-day registration.
Judge Peter Economus ruled Thursday that the cuts were in violation of the Voting Rights Act’s ban on racial discrimination in voting, and the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution. Economus issued an injunction preventing the changes from going into effect before the November election — a blow to the GOP’s hopes of capturing the Senate and, perhaps, keeping the House. In addition, he directed Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to add a second Sunday of early voting.
Husted said in a statement.
Regarding the ruling today in NAACP v. Husted, all of the following may be attributed to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted:
“My overarching principle for Ohio’s long-debated voting schedule is that all voters, no matter where they live, should have the same opportunity to vote. That’s why I have set uniform voting hours for all 88 counties and why I sent absentee ballot applications to voters statewide, so there would be no disparity in access.
“I have been consistent. This ruling is not.
“During the 2012 election and beyond, this same judge said we had to implement fair and uniform days and hours’ of operation for elections in Ohio. Now he seems to say counties can set their own days and hours of operation.
“Today’s ruling kicks the door open to having different rules for voting in each of Ohio’s 88 counties, which is not fair and uniform and was not even acceptable to this court or the plaintiffs previously.
“We must appeal this ruling, because we can’t simultaneously treat people the same and differently.”
The decision has been heavily applauded by voting rights activists.
“This ruling will safeguard the vote for thousands of Ohioans during the midterm election,” said Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project. “If these cuts had been allowed to remain in place, many voters would have lost a critical opportunity to participate in our democratic process this November. This is a huge victory for Ohio voters and for all those who believe in protecting the integrity of our elections.”
Attorney General Eric Holder also weighed in on the victory. “Today’s outcome represents a milestone in our effort to continue to protect voting rights even after the Supreme Court’s deeply misguided decision in Shelby County,” he said in a speech about the Justice Department’s investigation into the Ferguson police department.
Earlier this year, Husted killed Sunday and weekday voting past 5 p.m., claiming that this would somehow make voting “fair and uniform.” African American voters were, of course, the most highly impacted. In 2008, African-Americans accounted for 56% of all weekend voters in Ohio’s largest county, even though they only make up 28% of the county’s population.
“By completely eliminating Sundays from the early voting schedule, Secretary Husted has effectively quashed successful Souls to the Polls programs that brought voters directly form church to early voting sites,” said Mike Brickner, a spokesman for Ohio’s ACLU.
The ACLU said in a press release that, “Together these cuts will impact tens of thousands of low-income voters, elderly voters, student voters and African-American voters who turn to early in-person voting as their best option for casting a ballot.”