Columbus — A federal judge is considering the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s call for extended early voting hours for the coming general election.
U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus heard arguments Aug. 11 in a federal courtroom from legal counsel for the NAACP and Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted.
The two sides are at odds over a new state law eliminating the state’s “golden week,” during which residents could register and cast ballots on the same day, and on hours set by Husted for early ballots.
The NAACP, American Civil Liberties Union and others say the Republican-backed election changes present a burden to low-income residents, particularly black voters who use evening and weekend hours to get to the polls.
“This case is about low-income voters whose day-to-day reality is vastly different … ,” argued Sean Young, an attorney for the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.
The NAACP wants the state to restore golden week and allow more evening and weekend hours for early voting.
But Steven Voigt, legal counsel for Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine, said Ohio provides “far more opportunities to vote than many other states,” noting that 18 other states allow voting only on Election Day.
Ohio has 28 days of early voting plus allows mail-in absentees.
“If Ohio law is found to violate the Voting Rights Act, then that would mean that the laws of most other states also violate the Voting Rights Act,” Voigt said.
Earlier this year, Economus ordered Husted to allow early voting on the final Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day.
Husted subsequently directed county boards to allow early voting for the general election from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on the final two Saturdays before Election Day, plus 1-5 p.m. on the final Sunday and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. on the final Monday before the election.
Those hours will be in place for presidential primary elections and gubernatorial general elections, with slightly different hours on a couple of days for presidential general elections, regular municipal elections, other primaries and special elections.
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.