More Judicial Appeal of Voter Suppression: Ohio

POSTED BY MARTIN KICH

In the last several weeks voter suppression measures in North Carolina, Wisconsin, Texas, Kansas, and Michigan have been overturned by Federal Appeals Courts. This week a case on similar measures in Ohio is being heard. Over the last six years, there have been frequent battles in the legislature and in the courts on a variety of measures uniformly justified as being necessary to insure the integrity of the voting process.

The item that follows has been distributed by the Ohio Democratic Party:

“Thousands of potential votes are at stake this week, as the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals hears arguments today in Ohio Democratic Party v. Husted and on Thursday in Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless v. Husted, two cases that challenge Republican laws that make it harder for Ohioans to vote and have their votes be counted.

“’In two lower court rulings, the judges found that legislation enacted by Ohio Republicans violated the Constitution and Voting Rights Act,’ said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper. ‘The judges also found that the Republicans’ actions had a disproportionate impact on African-American voters in Ohio. When you look at recent rulings in states like North Carolina and Wisconsin, it’s clear that Republicans in state after state have systematically passed laws that made it harder for African Americans and other groups to vote, manipulating the electoral process for political gain. That’s shameful—and it’s particularly shameful as Republicans in Congress have failed to act for more than three years to update the Voting Rights Act, which celebrates its 51st anniversary this Saturday.’

“’The Ohio Democratic Party will never stop fighting to ensure ensure that Ohioans’ voting rights are protected and that every eligible voter is registered, every registered voter is able to vote and that every vote is accurately counted.’

“The ODP v. Husted case involves “Golden Week,” the first week of early voting, in which Ohio voters can register and cast a ballot at the same time. In his decision, Judge Michael Watson found that eliminating “Golden Week” was unconstitutional and a violation of the Voting Rights Act because of the burden it placed on African-American voters. Before the Republican-led legislature passed legislation ending it in 2014, 60,000 and 80,000 Ohioans turned out to vote during the Golden Week period in 2008 and 2012, respectively.

“From the findings of fact:

“’EIP [early in-person] voting in homogenous black blocks was 4.316 times higher than homogenous white blocks in 2008… 4.4476 times higher in 2012… usage rates of Golden Week specifically were far higher among African Americans than among whites in both 2008 and 2012… In other words, in 2008, for example, “the rate of voting early in person during golden week is three and a half times greater in homogenous black blocks than homogenous white blocks.”’”

“The Ohio Democratic Party’s appellate brief makes note that the chair of the Franklin County Republican Party revealed the GOP’s racial motivations in making cuts to early voting, writing, ‘I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban—read African-American—voter-turnout machine.’

“In the NEOCH v. Husted case, Judge Algenon Marbley found that thousands of valid ballots in 2014 and 2015 were rejected for minor issues, for example, writing a mailing address instead of a registration address or writing a name in cursive instead of print. Marbley also found that the actions of the Republican legislature and Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted were disproportionately harming African-American voters.

“From Marbley’s ruling:

“’The Ohio General Assembly took action after the disastrous 2004 election to expand voters’ access to absentee and provisional balloting, and the rollback of these improvements will disproportionately harm African-American voters. Due to the General Assembly’s retrenchment and the social and historical conditions affecting African-American Ohioans, SBs 205 and 216 have a discriminatory impact on African-Americans.’”

 

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