U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has signaled that the Justice Department will back pending Ohio litigation aimed at providing more early voting days for Ohioans and restoring Ohio’s voting “golden week.” Holder and his department are more than justified in doing so. At stake is one of the most precious of constitutional rights, the right to vote. That is a fundamental right Americans have died for, as, for example, three patriots – two white, one black – did 50 years ago in Neshoba County, Mississippi. In February, Ohio General Assembly Republicans passed, and Gov. John Kasich signed, Senate Bill 238. The bill, passed along party lines (Republicans for, Democrats against), abolished Ohio’s so-called golden week. This was the week right before Ohio’s voter registration deadline when an Ohioan simultaneously could register to vote, apply for and then cast an in-person, early-voting ballot at his or her county board of elections.
So the effect of Senate Bill 238 was to roll back a voting opportunity that Ohioans had enjoyed since after the 2004 presidential election, when long lines at Ohio voting precincts demonstrated a pressing need to provide Ohioans more ways and places to exercise their right to vote.
Plainly put, passage of SB 238 meant that what Ohioans had been allowed to do in one visit to a board of elections – register to vote, then vote an in-person, absentee ballot – will now require two trips.