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US Supreme Court denies request by Democrats to extend early voting in Ohio

by Marc kovac | Capital Bureau Chief Published: September 13, 2016 1:37 PM

Columbus -- The U.S. Supreme Court has denied an attempt by the Ohio Democratic Party to reinstate Ohio's so-called Golden Week.

The ruling Sept. 13 means eligible voters in the state will not be allowed to register and cast ballots on the same day when Ohio's absentee voting period for the presidential election begins next month.

The Democratic Party had sought a stay of a federal appeals court decision last month in favor of Republican-backed legislation that ended voter registration on one day and started early voting on the next.

The legislation, which reduced Ohio's early voting period by one week, was signed into law in early 2014 and went into effect later that year.

Proponents said the change was needed to give county election officials time to verify voters' eligibility before they cast ballots and to reduce potential voter fraud.

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But opponents, including Democratic lawmakers, called it a further attempt to limit early voting and make it harder for eligible resident to cast ballots. The Ohio Democratic Party and others subsequently filed suit.

In May, U.S. District Court Judge Michael H. Watson reinstated Golden Week, ruling that the legislation eliminating the extra week of early voting hurt black voters in particular and was unconstitutional.

But a federal appeals court last month reversed that decision, ruling that Ohio "continues to provide generous, reasonable and accessible voting options to all Ohioans."

Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted praised the Supreme Court decision Sept. 13.

"This issue has been dragged through multiple courtrooms over the course of several years and every time, it has been sent back with the same message: Ohio's laws are fair and constitutional," he said in a released statement. "This much is perfectly clear: Ohio is a place where it is easy to vote and hard to cheat. In fact, with voting now slated to begin in less than a month for the November election, Ohio is one of the easiest states in the nation in which to register and cast your ballot. Ohioans want an efficient and secure election and it is time for these wasteful lawsuits to end."

But Democrats voiced disappointment.

"As the trial court found, the burden of Ohio SB 238's elimination of the first week of early voting and same day registration disproportionately falls on minorities here in Ohio," state Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) said in a released statement. "Unfortunately, the court is not always well equipped to remedy every discriminatory measure that lands before it. I will continue to fight legislative efforts to restrict voting, especially those that harm minority voters."

And Democratic Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan added in a statement, "We know early voting and the Golden Week increases voter turnout and gives more citizens a chance to have their voices heard. Over the last two presidential elections alone, tens of thousands of Ohioans have counted on the Golden Week to register to vote and cast their ballots. Voting in elections is one of our country's most sacred freedoms and we should do everything in our power to make it easier, not more difficult."

Ohio's voter registration deadline is Oct. 11. Early voting starts on Oct. 12.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.


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