Ohio Voters Recoup Early Voting Hours in New Settlement

by: Zenitha Prince Senior AFRO Correspondent
/ (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File) /
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In this Oct. 29, 2012 file photo a “Vote Early” sign is held up by supporters at a rally for President Barack Obama in Youngstown, Ohio. Civil-rights groups have settled their legal dispute with Ohio’s elections chief over laws that trimmed early voting opportunities in the political battleground state. The agreement between Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and the Ohio Chapter of the NAACP and other plaintiffs maintains elimination of the so-called “golden week” in which individuals could have both registered and voted, but adds voting opportunities on multiple Sundays and evenings ahead of the general election. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Ohio voters gained a victory April 17, when civil rights groups reached an agreement with Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted in a dispute over the abridgment of early voting hours.

The settlements preserve a ban on the so-called “Golden Week,” a brief window when Ohio voters could have registered and voted at the same time. However, it extends early voting hours on Sundays and evening voting hours leading up to the 2016 presidential elections and through 2018.

“Thousands of Ohioans rely on early voting opportunities as their only chance to cast a ballot in an election,” Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. “This is a victory for all those who know that a healthy democracy depends on the participation of its people.”

The agreement resolved a court battle initiated last year by the ACLU on behalf of the Ohio chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the League of Women Voters of Ohio, the A. Philip Randolph Institute and several African-American churches.

The groups had decried the changes wrought by Senate Bill 238 in the state’s 130th General Assembly, including “uniform” early voting parameters that contained no evening or Sunday hours. The changes adversely and disproportionately impacted African-Americans voters, who utilize early voting at higher rates, activists said.

Husted said the agreement filed April 17 addresses the concerns of the state and voting rights advocates.

“This agreement is a victory for Ohio voters,” the state’s top election official said in a statement. “One of my primary goals is to ensure uniformity in Ohio elections so that every voter in this state is treated equally and fairly. Today we are preserving that uniformity for all Ohio voters while maintaining ample opportunity to cast a ballot and participate in the democratic process.”

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