Democrats in the swing state of Ohio have filed a federal lawsuit claiming a series of voting-related changes made by Republicans disproportionately burden voters who lean Democratic and violate certain constitutional rights. The state’s Republican elections chief contends the voting process is fair and has called the lawsuit politically motivated. … The Ohio Organizing Collaborative filed the lawsuit in May in Columbus federal court. But attorneys for the nonprofit recently withdrew the organization from the case, saying it lacked the “institutional capability” to remain a plaintiff. The state’s Democratic Party and Cuyahoga and Montgomery county parties took its place. They join three Ohio residents who are also plaintiffs. They are suing Jon Husted, the state’s Republican elections chief, and Mike DeWine, Ohio’s attorney general, over the voting policies.
Democrats are challenging legislation approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly, along with several directives that Husted has issued. These include provisions that eliminated of a week of early voting in which Ohioans could also register to vote; limited each county to a single location for early, in-person voting regardless of population; reduced the number of electronic voting machines in counties where they are the primary device; increased rules for casting and counting absentee and provisional ballots; and excluded “inactive” voters from receiving unsolicited, absentee ballot applications.
The lawsuit comes after Husted reached a deal in April with the Ohio Chapter of the NAACP and other civil rights groups in a separate, long-running dispute over early voting. The NAACP also had challenged the elimination of the so-called “golden week” along with early voting hours set by Husted. The group had argued the changes hurt low-income, black voters disproportionately. The state contended the organization couldn’t prove an illegal undue burden was placed on voters. The settlement expanded the early voting times set by Husted, but did not reinstate the golden week.