SCOTUS Interferes With|Ohio Early-Voting Plan

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Though the 6th Circuit found that limits on early voting in Ohio unfairly burdened black voters, the Supreme Court reinstated them late Monday.
     Senate Bill 238 eliminates what is commonly known as the “Golden Week” of the five-week Ohio early-voting period during which citizens of Ohio can register and vote on the same day.
     The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), on behalf of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), challenged the law under the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, as well as Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, claiming it disproportionately burdens black voters, women and the homeless.
     In addition to noting that low-income and single-parent voters are more likely to use the Golden Week because they are unable to get paid time off from work, the groups said census records show that black voters went to the polls from 2006 to 2010 “early in-person at nearly twice the rate of white voters, and then exceeded that rate in 2012.” (Emphasis in originals.)
     Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted set early in-person, or EIP, voting hours for the 2014 primary and general elections with Directive 2014-17 earlier this year.
     The directive removed the Sunday and evening hours of early voting, a change that the ACLU and NAACP said took direct aim at the “Souls to the Polls” program adopted by the black church community. These churches used their transportation, already in place on Sundays to take people to and from church, to take also visit early polling places.
     A federal judge in Columbus enjoined both SB 238 and Directive 2014-17, and the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit affirmed last week.
     With Ohioans set to vote early as usual come November, the deeply divided Supreme Court granted Husted a stay late Monday.
     The two-paragraph order notes that Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan would have denied the application for stay.
     Husted can now petition for a writ of certiorari, and the court will terminate its stay if it denies such relief. “In the event the petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the stay shall terminate upon the sending down of the judgment of this court,” the order states.
     In enjoining SB 238 and Directive 2014-17, the lower courts had relied on statistical analysis that showed the reductions in early voting “disproportionately and negatively affected” black voters.

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