Election 2016

Finally, a Win for Voting Rights

esquire.comBelieve it or not, it’s been a pretty good week for people who have taken on the fight to rehabilitate the battered old franchise on behalf of Americans who Republicans would not rather see voting anytime soon.

At the top of the good news is a story out of Ohio in which a federal court took the pruning shears to that state’s new voting restrictions, as per The Columbus Dispatch.

Judge Michael H. Watson of U.S. District Court in Columbus said the Republican-dominated Ohio legislature violated the federal constitution and Voting Rights Act in 2014 when it reduced the state’s early voting period from 35 to 28 days. The move also eliminated the so-called Golden Week in which eligible residents could register to vote and cast an absentee ballot at the same time. Even though Ohio’s early voting period is among the most generous in the nation, the reduction disproportionately affected African Americans, Watson ruled. The judge noted that blacks took advantage of Golden Week 3½ times as often as white voters in 2008, and more than 5 times as often in 2012. “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 in a 120-page opinion. The legislature’s stated justifications for the cutback—reducing fraud, trimming costs, avoiding voter confusion—were weak, said Watson, former chief counsel to Republican Gov. Bob Taft. Watson ordered Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine—the defendants in the case—to stop enforcing the shortened voting period.

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