Columbus — The Ohio conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has asked a federal judge force longer early voting hours for the November general election.
The group is hoping U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus, who earlier ordered Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted to allow early voting on the final Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day, will provide additional Sunday and weekday and evening hours.
The NAACP also wants the judge to restore Ohio’s “golden week,” the former period of time that allowed people to register and cast ballots on the same day.
Lawmakers eliminated golden week earlier this year.
“... The remaining cutbacks still appear designed to ensure that only those who can afford to take unpaid time off of work or easily make childcare arrangements can cast a ballot in person during the early voting period,” the NAACP wrote this week in its new motion for a preliminary injunction. “... The state cannot justify such sweeping restrictions on the right to vote.”
Last month, Husted announced that early voting for the general election would be open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on the final two Saturdays before Election Day. Under Economus’ order, he also added 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.
Husted said at the time that he considered the matter settled. “When it comes to voting early, the national average is 19 days. This November, Ohioans will be able to vote in person, including on weekends, starting 28 days before the election,” he said. “Additionally, I will be sending all registered voters an application to vote by mail so they have four weeks to vote without ever having to leave home. I know of no other state that goes to this great of lengths to encourage voters to cast ballots before Election Day.”
But in its filing in federal court this week, the NAACP argued that Husted has not provided sufficient opportunity for early voting: “ First, African Americans in Ohio overwhelmingly rely on in-person voting as compared to whites, up to four times the rate of whites on several of the eliminated days. Second, these voting cutbacks interact with persistent socioeconomic discrimination in Ohio to diminish the opportunity for African Americans to participate in the political process. Because African Americans have lower socioeconomic status in Ohio, these early voting cutbacks make it disproportionately more difficult for African Americans to vote by systematically eliminating opportunities to vote during hours and days outside regular business hours.”
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.