ACLU Sues Ohio Over Limitations On Early Voting
Recent rollbacks on early voting in Ohio have triggered a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union against Secretary of State Jon Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine, both Republicans.
"Ohio has again taken center stage in the battle over voting rights," said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project. "Politicians who tamper with people's fundamental right to vote are being put on notice that they are not going to get away with it."
Earlier this year, Gov. John Kasich signed several Republican-backed bills that eliminated early voting hours including Golden Week – six days where Ohioans could register and vote on the same day.
“All of these voting laws were agreed to in Ohio on a bipartisan basis ten years ago and signed by a Republican governor,” Democratic US Sen Sherrod Brown told 10TV. “I just don’t understand making it harder for people to vote, especially minorities and working people.”
Husted says the lawsuit is baseless and that Ohio still has some of the longest early voting opportunities in the country.
"The ACLU is targeting the wrong state because by every objective measure Ohio has expansive opportunities to vote," said Matt McClellan, Husted's press secretary. "The ACLU would be better served to focus on states like New York or Delaware or Michigan or Kentucky where there's no early voting at all."
In addition to Golden Week, Husted's 2014 election directive excludes Sundays, effectively ending the "Souls to the Polls" voting drives by African-American churches before the general election.
"Together these cuts will impact tens of thousands of low-income voters, elderly voters, student voters and African-American voters who turn to early in-person voting as their best option for casting a ballot," said Sybil Edwards-McNabb, president of the Ohio Conference of the NAACP.
Husted's expected opponent this fall, Democratic state senator Nina Turner, says there was no reason for Republicans to make the changes.
"It is truly unfortunate that voting advocates must again turn to litigation to secure equal access to a basic right," said Turner. "Early voting has been working in Ohio, and no compelling reason has been presented to support rolling it back."
Husted says Ohio still has a liberal schedule when it comes to early voting opportunities.
"The fact is that it's easy to vote in Ohio and the plaintiffs should be joining Secretary Husted in making sure all voters know their voting options rather than trying to scare them into believing it's hard," said McClellan. "That's the real voter suppression."
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Ohio Conference of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters of Ohio, and several African-American churches.