In 2012, 59,000 Ohio voters took advantage of a six-day early voting period during which they could simultaneously register and cast a ballot, known as the “Golden Week.” The week was particularly useful to the elderly, low-income voters, and all others with limited time or means of transportation. But the Ohio legislature passed a bill this week that would eliminate that week, and a second suppressive bill that would end the successful practice of mailing absentee ballots to every registered voter. Gov. John Kasich (R) plans to sign both party-line measures, and voting rights groups are already queueing up lawsuits to challenge the new attempts to curb voting opportunities.
In addition to eliminating the “Golden Week,” the measures cut six days of early voting, even though Ohio saw marathon lines during the 2012 election after Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) dramatically rolled back early voting opportunities. African Americans are particularly likely to vote early. And a court ruling against Husted’s earlier move to restrict early voting noted that “early voters have disproportionately lower incomes and less education than election day voters.” A bipartisan presidential commission recently found that early voting curbs election-day chaos — a particular problem in Ohio.
A third bill passed last year reduced the number of voting machines. As with most voter suppression bills, the argument to end these voting opportunities is that they could lead to voter fraud. But even Husted has acknowledged that voter fraud is not a problem.
Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D) warned in November that these measures and another to voter identification would suppress the voting rights of African Americans and asked Attorney General Eric Holder to review the laws.