A federal judge on Tuesday struck down a state law that eliminated “Golden Week,” several days when Ohio voters could both register to vote and cast a ballot. The 2014 law violates both the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson wrote in his opinion siding with Democrats who challenged the law. The state will appeal the ruling, a state attorney general spokesman said. If the ruling stands, Ohio voters will have 35 days to cast a ballot this November instead of 28 and will be able to register to vote and cast a ballot at the same time. In 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the law on behalf of the Ohio chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and League of Women Voters and several African-American churches. A federal district court judge struck down the law, but the state was granted a stay. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and Statehouse Republicans argued that Ohio provides 28 days of absentee voting by mail and in-person, making it one of the most expansive voting systems in the country.
The court agreed with the ACLU’s argument that eliminating Golden Week resulted in less opportunity for African Americans to participate in the political process than other voters. Census surveys and anecdotal evidence showed African American voters were more likely than white voters to cast ballots early and in-person.
Watson, a George W. Bush appointee, cited that case in his opinion. The Ohio Democratic Party and Montgomery and Cuyahoga county parties took over the lawsuit, initially filed last year by the Ohio Organizing Collaborative.
The lawsuit challenged several election laws passed by the GOP-controlled General Assembly. Watson upheld all other laws, which Husted praised in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.
“While I am pleased the court has upheld existing law on nearly every issue, it is disappointing that a federal judge would again change the election rules after the current laws were upheld in the same federal district court by a settlement agreement we reached with the NAACP and the ACLU,” Husted said.