Federal Judge rules that Ohio violated voting rights

U.S. Federal Judge Michael Watson has ruled that Republican attempts to reduce early voting days in Ohio constitutes a violation of voting rights and unfairly targets minorities.

Specifically, the judge ruled that the reduction of early voting days from 35 to 28 was in contravened the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Ohio legislation SB 238 eliminated that extra seven days of early voting which has been dubbed The Golden Week.

The law also limited the hours that electoral offices were open.

Watson called the impact of SB 238 on black voters as being “modest, as well as disproportionate.”

He cited research presented in the case which he felt demonstrated that minorities used early voting proportionately more than whites.

“Based on this evidence, it is reasonable to conclude that the reduction in overall time to vote will burden the right to vote of African Americans, who use (early in-person) voting significantly more than other voters,” Watson said.

Watson went on to cite previous voting rights cases in Ohio when making his own decision.

“While Ohio’s election system provides multiple ways to vote, the record suggests that those options do not eliminate or significantly decrease the burden imposed on the right to vote of African Americans as a result of the elimination of Golden Week … The court finds that SB 238 results in less opportunity for African Americans to participate in the political process than other voters … SB 238 interacts with the historical and social conditions facing African Americans in Ohio to reduce their opportunity to participate in Ohio’s political process relative to other groups of voters.”

He summed up by calling the Ohio law as “unenforceable”.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted blasted the decision.

“For nearly 200 years, Ohioans voted for only one day. If it was constitutional for lawmakers to expand the voting period to 35 days, it must also be constitutional for the same legislative body to amend the timeframe to 28 days, a timeframe that remains one of the most generous in the nation,” he said in a statement.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said that the decision would be appealed.


[Columbus Dispatch]