The Ohio law that prevents someone from registering to vote and casting a ballot at the same time has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. The so called “golden week” has been reinstated for now.
Republican Judge Michael Watson has ordered Secretary of State Jon Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine to stop enforcing the shortened early voting period approved as part of an election law package in 2014 that keeps voters from being able to register to vote and cast ballots at the same time. Watson ruled the law getting rid of that option violates both the U.S. Constitution and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, saying it imposes a disproportionate burden on African Americans’ right to vote and limits their opportunity to participate in the political process. Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper says it’s a victory for voters….and in particular African American voters, who were found to be up to five times more likely to use the "golden week " option.
“The judge found that very clearly, they used that more often. And the judge found the burden placed on African Americans was disproportionate by the law that got rid of golden week.”
Pepper says that finding was the key to the case. For a couple of years now, Republican leaders in Ohio, including Husted and Dewine, have pointed out the state has many options to vote….in person early voting, vote on weekends, vote by mail. And they say that’s way more than most other states. But Pepper says this judge found that argument wasn’t relevant.
“We are going to keep wasting a lot of taxpayer money as a state defending losing lawsuits if Jon Husted and Mike DeWine, don’t figure out that argument doesn’t get them anywhere. The relevant thing is this this state expanded voting in a bipartisan way after “04 and the relevant analysis is, and today is a perfect example, if you try to peel back voting or roll it back and make it harder, and the way you do that has an impact like this voting rule did today that makes it harder for one group, in this case African Americans to vote, you are violating the constitution.”
But Secretary of State Jon Husted says the fact that Ohio has so many voting options should be and is important to this case.
“Just because it’s not relevant to one judge, it was very relevant to the 99 elected members of the House of Representatives, the 33 elected members of the Senate and the people of the state of Ohio. And common sense would indicate that when you have more hours in Ohio than you do in most states in the country that Ohio should not only have a constitutional system but a great system for voting. We do.”
Husted says he’s frustrated because he thought there was an agreement made last fall between him, state leaders and the parties that brought this lawsuit.
“We thought it was done. We thought it was over. And now this latest ruling throws it all back into chaos again because one court judge disagreed with another court judge. And so unfortunately, in Ohio, we have these politically motivated lawsuits, this time from the Clinton campaign and the Democrats, to try to make political statements over issues that have previously been settled.”
Husted says the ruling can be appealed to the 6th circuit court of appeals. He says his next move will be to talk to state leaders to see if they want to appeal this decision. If they don’t, Ohioans might, once again, be able to register to vote and cast a ballot at the same time again when they go to the polls in November.