A federal judge blocked Republican-backed reductions in early voting opportunities in Ohio for the fall election today. U.S. District Court Judge Peter C. Economus granted a preliminary injunction against a GOP-backed bill that ended “Golden Week” — when people could register to vote and vote on the same day — and a February directive from Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted that lopped off some weekend and evening hours of early voting in some urban counties. Husted said he will appeal the ruling “because we can’t simultaneously treat people the same and differently. Today’s ruling kicks the door open to having different rules for voting in each of Ohio’s 88 counties, which is not fair and uniform and was not even acceptable to this court or the plaintiffs previously.”
Economus ruled on behalf of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People of Ohio and the League of Women Voters of Ohio, which filed suit with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder also intervened on behalf of the plaintiffs, who argued that reductions in early voting disproportionately affect African Americans, who cast early in-person ballots at a higher percentage rate than whites.
Economus ruled that the GOP’s law and Husted’s directive for voting hours this fall “ unconstitutional and in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.” The state argued that Ohio already had among the most opportunities in the country for people to vote early, including Husted’s practice of mailing applications for absentee ballots to every registered voter.