The Supreme Court today declined to overturn a ruling from the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that upheld Ohio’s elimination of the first week of early voting in the crucial battleground state. There was no explanation for the decision or dissents.
This is a blow for voting rights, after the Supreme Court declined to reinstate new voting restrictions in North Carolina and Michigan in recent weeks. In 2012, 80,000 people voted during the first week of early voting in Ohio and 14,000 used same-day voter registration during the period known as “Golden Week.” African-Americans were five times more likely than whites to vote during Golden Week in 2012. The US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio found that cutting early voting “results in less opportunity for African Americans to participate in the political process than other voters.” (That ruling was overturned by the court of appeals.)
Ohio still has 28 days of early voting, but voters will no longer be able to register and vote on the same day during the early-voting period. Today’s decision is particularly worrisome given the news that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who defended the early-voting cuts, refused to mail absentee ballots to one in seven registered Ohio voters. Husted said that more than 1 million registered voters were either purged for “infrequent voting” because they didn’t vote in the last three elections or had moved.
Ohio’s voter purge is currently being challenged in court, with a ruling in the Sixth Circuit expected soon. At least 144,000 voters in Ohio’s three largest counties, home to Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, were purged since the 2012 election, with voters in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods twice as likely to be removed as those in Republican-leaning ones. Voting-rights advocates claim the purge violates the National Voter Registration Act.
Moreover, it seems that Husted’s non-voter list may be riddled with errors, according to the Akron Beacon Journal: