In what is being cheered by civil liberties advocates as a victory, a federal judge on Thursday ruled that (pdf) Ohio’s cuts to early voting are unconstitutional and in violation of the Voting Rights Act.
The ACLU and ACLU of Ohio field the suit on behalf of the Ohio chapter of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters of Ohio and three churches.
In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Peter C. Economus agreed with the plaintiffs’ argument, stating that the cuts “result in fewer opportunities for African Americans to participate in the electoral process.”
His ruling, the New York Times reports, means the state must “restore early voting during evenings and on at least two Sundays, and to reinstate Golden Week, the first week of early voting in which many African-American churches organize congregants to register and vote on the same day.”
As Ari Berman wrote for The Nation,
There’s an important backstory here. Early voting became a critical reform in Ohio after the disastrous 2004 election. Once Democrats and minority groups began using it in large numbers, Republicans repeatedly tried to curb early voting.
“If these cuts had been allowed to remain in place, many voters would have lost a critical opportunity to participate in our democratic process this November,” stated Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “This is a huge victory for Ohio voters and for all those who believe in protecting the integrity of our elections.”
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted vowed, “We must appeal this ruling.”