Commentary

09.09.14

Victory for Ohio Voters!

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Early this year, Ohio’s legislature and Secretary of State slashed early voting opportunities that had been relied upon by thousands of voters in Ohio. A week-long same-day registration period, all evening early voting hours, and all but one Sunday of early voting were cut from Ohio’s early voting period.

The ACLU of Ohio and ACLU National Voting Rights Project fought back.

In May, we filed suit in federal court against the state law and directives behind the cuts. Since a trial in this case will not take place until next year, we asked Judge Peter C. Economus in June to preliminarily block the measures while the law suit is pending. In order for the court to do this, we had to prove that we would likely succeed in a trial.

Last week, in a huge victory for voting rights in Ohio, Judge Economus granted our request, ruling that the eliminated voting opportunities must be restored before the upcoming election. In his order, Judge Economus determined that, in a trial, the state’s cuts would likely be found in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

After this ruling, when can you vote early in the November 2014 election?

  • The early voting period lasts from September 30 through November 3.
  • Weekdays starting September 30 and running through October 6, you can register and vote in-person on the same day.
  • Two Sundays are available: October 26 and November 2.
  • From October 20-31, there will be evening hours for early in-person voting.
  • Counties may offer additional early in-person voting hours.

Under the Equal Protection Clause, a state may not impose restrictions on the right to vote without adequate justification. In this case, the court found the state’s asserted justifications inadequate.

Under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, voting procedures cannot discriminate on the basis of race. In this case, the court found that the state’s cuts would likely be shown to be discriminatory, since the early voting opportunities cut by the state are those most utilized and needed by low-income voters who are disproportionately African American.

What does this ruling mean for Ohio voters? It means that the first week of early voting and the opportunity to register and vote on the same day have been restored. Absentee and early in-person voting will begin on September 30 rather than October 7. There will be multiple Sundays – October 26 and November 2 – for early in-person voting. From October 20-31, there will also be weekday evening hours for early in-person voting, and counties that want additional early in-person voting hours will be allowed to offer them.

While this ruling is a huge victory, the battle is far from over. Secretary Husted has appealed this preliminary decision, and the trial on the merits of the case will not occur until next year.

Join the ACLU in the ongoing fight against attempts to limit the right to vote.

Read more about NAACP v. Husted.

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