There was a great decision last week by Federal Judge Peter Economus to open up early voting including the preservation of Golden Week. We wrote about this on our voting update section of our website. Just click on the VOTE button on any page of the website. This week, Judge Economus has allowed the state to join the lawsuit in their appeal. We thought that Golden week was dead and had no hope in being resurrected especially when the case drew an extremely conservative judge. The NAACP and League of Women Voters' lawyers successfully made the case that this is just an extension of the 2012 early voting case to get Judge Economus to decide on the case. Now, we are scrambling to get homeless people to use Golden Week.
One area that is going to be touchy this week is what happens at the local level. The judge forcefully said that the Secretary of State should not block local expansions of voting hours, but he has a vote. I would recommend reading the 71 page decision, because Economus really went after the State of Ohio for limiting voting. Full disclosure: the Judge quoted my testimony against the loss of Golden Week earlier this year when it was in legislative committee. Economus's decision says:
The Court likewise concludes that SB 238’s elimination of Golden Week itself similarly burdens the voting rights of lower income and homeless individuals. The record reflects that in 2008, 12,842 voters utilized Golden Week to register or update their registration and vote; in 2010, 1,651 voters did so; and, in 2012, 5,844 voters did so. While these figures may be small in comparison to the millions of votes usually cast in Ohio elections, thousands of voters have utilized Golden Week during each of the last several elections.
What happens if the local board splits with the two Democrats wanting evening hours and the two Republicans want no evening hours? The Secretary of State breaks all local tie votes. Would he cross the federal judge and vote to limit early voting or cross his party and allow urban communities with large African American voters to open in the evening for voting? Would he see that equality does not mean stuffing hundreds of thousands into the same building with only 5 hours of off work hours available a week to vote in person?
There is also the matter of the appeal of this case that could cause chaos. There is so little time left for boards to get ready for early voting, the State needs to drop their appeal and let us have the same hours we had in 2012. Small counties were not been adversely impacted by different voting hours. Cuyahoga and the other big counties did not have voter turnout far greater than the other counties. The world did not end because each County had a different schedule. Right now, we are planning for evening hours, weekend early voting and Golden Week. If we have to change course again, voters are going to be so confused. This appeal of the case can only be viewed as exclusively political and not helpful to voting in Ohio. The Secretary of State is certainly not providing certainty in voting and allowing the local community to set their own hours based on the needs of their citizens; he is protecting the goals of his political party to limit access to early voting. We need to allow the local experts to decide on the hours for their voters.
By the way, we are collecting volunteers for Early voting both with registrations and driving people to the Board of Elections. Here is a copy of a flyer that you can print out or send around to family and friends... Contact NEOCH if you want to volunteer.
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