Ohio Sued by Black Groups, Churches Over Cut to Early Voting

Ohio’s law cutting the first week of early voting and all early ballots on Sundays was challenged by black and women’s groups in a lawsuit that further expands nationwide litigation over access to the polls.

The 2014 law, which reduced early voting to 28 days from 35, complicates voting for low-income workers who have greater difficulty arranging child-care and time off work, the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the organizations, said today in a statement.

Early voting on Sundays is popular with black church groups that often provide bus transportation to polling places to encourage votes, the ACLU said.

“Ohio has again taken center stage in the battle over voting rights,” Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s voting rights project, said in the statement. “Politicians who tamper with people’s fundamental right to vote are being put on notice that they are not going to get away with it.”

Suits over early voting are also pending in North Carolina. A federal judge in Milwaukee two days ago voided Wisconsin’s photo-identification requirement for voting, and a state court judge in Pennsylvania struck down a similar law in January. Photo-ID cases have also been filed in Texas and Arkansas.

Lawyers in the office of Ohio’s attorney general, Mike DeWine, who is named in the lawsuit, are reviewing the complaint, Lisa Peterson Hackley, his spokeswoman, said by phone.

Columbus Court

The suit was filed today in federal court in Columbus by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the League of Women Voters of Ohio and several African-American churches.

Two years ago, President Barack Obama’s campaign organization sued Ohio over changes to the state’s early-voting laws, winning a court order barring it from limiting balloting on the final weekend before the general election to members of the U.S. armed forces.

Laws restricting early voting followed a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that threw out the 1965 Voting Rights Act’s formula for determining which states must get federal approval before changing their election rules.

The decision blocked a tool the Justice Department has used to halt thousands of state and local voting changes, including identification laws in Texas and South Carolina in 2012.

There’s a “temptation for some elected officials to try to game the system and change the rules to stay in power as long as possible,” Ho said of the Ohio law in a phone interview. “The demographics of who uses early voting are not the demographics they can gain support from, so they try to cut off the means of access that those groups favor.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Larson in New York at elarson4@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Dunn at adunn8@bloomberg.net. Charles Carter, David Glovin

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.