U.S. District Court Judge Michael H. Watson ruled on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 that Ohio’s shortening of its early voting period from 35 days to 28 days was in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
In 2014 the Republican-controlled legislature in Ohio voted to shorten the state’s early voting period from 35 days to 28 days. In doing so, it not only eliminated an extra seven days to vote, but the seven-day period referred to as the Golden Week, when Ohio residents can both register to vote and cast absentee ballots at the same time.
Specifically, the U.S. District Court in Columbus, stated the Ohio’s shortening of the early voting period violated the 14th Amendment of the Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The Court found that the defendants in this case, Secretary of State Jon Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine provided insufficient and weak reasoning for the change in the early voting period.
At stake could be the very outcome of both the presidential election and state offices in the upcoming November election. Ohio is historically an important swing state in presidential elections. In 2012, when the 35-day early voting period, including the Golden Week, were in force, Barack Obama won Ohio by fewer than 200,000 votes.
The defendants justified their position by citing a reduction in the opportunity for voter fraud, avoiding voter confusion and cutting costs, rationale that did not stand up to what Watson found to be violations of both the Constitution and federal law. Watson ordered Husted and DeWine to cease enforcing the shortened early voting period.
Rick Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California in Irvine, an expert on voting rights, has said that this case from Ohio, along with other voting rights laws being appealed in a number of states, could easily land in the U.S. Supreme Court. While Hansen explains his thinking that clarification of the Voting Rights Act, particularly in light of the 2013 Supreme Court ruling that struck down some of that Act in the Shelby County vs. Holder case, needs clarification on a federal level, the court would likely split on the issue 4 to 4, with the ninth member yet replaced.
Freelance writer of 15+ years who is passionate about writing. Liberal Arts and Social Sciences background. Avid reader.Thirty-plus years experience as a registered nurse. Have lived in various parts of the United States, including a recent seven-year stint in Oklahoma City and back home now in Ohio. Writes about U.S. News, Health and Politics for The Daily Voice News. Contact me at [email protected]