A federal judge in Ohio is weighing arguments over the impact of early-voting changes in the presidential battleground state, as civil rights groups and voting rights organizations seek to block recent restrictions from being in place this November. Ohioans vote absentee by mail or in person without giving any reason. The lawsuit before U.S. District Judge Peter Economus challenges two early-voting revisions. One is a directive this year from Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted that set uniform, early voting times that included restrictions on weekend and evening hours. The other is a bill passed by the GOP-led General Assembly in February that shortens the early voting window. Instead of 35 days, the period would typically be 29 or 28 days. The law gets rid of a so-called “golden week” when people could both register to vote and cast a ballot at the same time.
The state argued Monday that plaintiffs, including the Ohio chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and NAACP, cannot prove the changes illegally place an undue burden on black voters.
“I think plaintiff would have a hard time arguing that under one of the most liberal voting regimes in America, the political process is not open to all Ohioans,” Steven Voigt, the state’s attorney, argued.
Plaintiffs argued that Husted’s order and the February legislation cut into voting opportunities that were being used by Ohio’s low-income and black voters.