Following up on our coverage from April, When it comes to imposing new restrictions on voting rights, Ohio Republicans haven’t exactly been subtle. In February, GOP policymakers in the state ended the so-called “Golden Week,” when Ohioans can register and vote on the same day, and at the same time, they also made it harder for voters to receive absentee ballots.
Soon after, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) curtailed early-voting opportunities and announced Sunday voting would be eliminated entirely statewide.
Today, a federal court started pushing back in the opposite direction.
A federal judge has ruled that Ohioans should be able to vote in the three days leading up to an election. […]In a permanent injunction, Economus ordered Husted to “set uniform and suitable in-person early voting hours for the three days preceding all future elections.”
The ruling came by way of U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus, a Clinton appointee.
Note, Husted excluded voting on the Sunday before Election Day almost certainly to undermine Democratic turnout efforts.
In Ohio and elsewhere, predominantly African-American churches routinely use that day for GOTV efforts – so-called “Souls to the Polls” drives – which made it seem like more than a coincidence when the Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State not-so-subtly announced he decided to stop Sunday voting.
Mike Brickner, a spokesperson for the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union, told msnbc at the time, “By completely eliminating Sundays from the early voting schedule, Secretary Husted has effectively quashed successful Souls to the Polls programs that brought voters directly from church to early voting sites.”
To which many Ohio Republicans no doubt thought, “Right, that’s the point. It’s a feature, not a bug.”
Perhaps it wasn’t too surprising, then, when a federal court saw through the charade.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer helped add some helpful context.
In May, the Democratic National Committee and Ohio Democratic Party asked the U.S. Southern District Court to make permanent a 2012 ruling that county boards of election must allow early, in-person voting on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day.The summary judgment issued Wednesday by U.S. District Court Judge Peter C. Economus orders Husted to set business hours for the three days prior to Election Day “to preserve the right of all Ohio voters to cast his or her vote with said hours to be uniform throughout the State and suitable to the needs of the particular election in question.”The Obama Campaign sued Husted and the state of Ohio in 2012, alleging the change violated Ohioans rights to participate equally in elections. The courts sided with the plaintiffs, concluding it was wrong to treat some voters (non-military) different than others (military). The Ohio Supreme Court rejected a request for an emergency stay, and Husted released new hours including the weekend voting days.The 2012 case remained open and Wednesday’s summary judgment makes the ruling permanent.
Both the Democratic National Committee and Ohio Democratic Party are declaring this an important victory for voting rights, and they’re right.
It’s unclear whether the state intends to appeal – Husted announced this afternoon he intends to follow the court order, not challenge it further.