Supreme Court denies renewal of Golden Week

Angelo Angel

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Sept. 13  it would refuse to restore Ohio’s Golden Week, a six-day time period where residents could register and vote within the same day, prior to Election Day.

The court’s decision came after Democratic groups submitted an application urging justices to review the case.

Golden Week was eliminated in February 2014, when Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed the state’s Senate Bill 238 into law. The bill eliminated the state’s six-day overlap during the original 35-day early voting period.

 

With Ohio’s deadline registration set 30 days before the general election, the overlap nullified Golden Week.

The law claimed Golden Week had a “disparate effect” on minority voters, and violated both the 14th Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Supporters of the law, such as Frank LaRose, of Ohio’s 27th House district— who was also a main sponsor — said it would help the state stop voter fraud.  

“We’ve been hearing from the Board of Election members, both Republicans and Democrats … and (Golden Week) caused a lot of concern,” Larose said. “Because if someone came in during that period of time (when Golden Week was active), they could register and immediately submit a live ballot, and there would be no time to verify their information.”

The idea for Golden Week began during the 2004 general election, when voters in predominantly minority communities experienced long lines to cast their vote. Some voters reported that it took seven to nine hours to cast their ballot.

In response to voter complaints, State Rep. Emilia Sykes, of Ohio’s 34th House District, said that the Ohio Congress introduced Golden Week in 2005 to help address the voting woes Ohioans were experiencing.

“Very shortly, with the passing of Golden Week, we saw an increase of non-traditional voters — who would otherwise have issues voting on Election Day — take advantage of Golden Week,” Sykes said.

Golden Week proved useful to Ohio residents, Sykes said.

In the 2012 general election, approximately 90,000 Ohioans cast ballots during the near-week long time period. That translated to 14 percent of the early, in-person absentee demographic, according to an American Civil Liberties Union case file.

The time period also allowed Ohioans to cast their votes when they would otherwise be unable to do so due to work schedules and lack of transportation, according to a 2014 article in The Atlantic.

Golden Week has been contested by Democrats and Republicans in the Ohio House. It wasn’t until SB 238 — which passed along party lines — however, that the special voting period was eliminated.

The bill’s passage came after a directive from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who said that it’s hypocritical to say Republicans are making it harder to vote, when Democrats have tried to eliminate it before.

In May 2014, Ohio’s chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the League of Women Voters and the American Civil Liberties Unions filed a lawsuit over SB 238. The groups said that the bill would discriminate against racial or language minorities.

The case was contested until it made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was denied restoration.

LaRose was the main sponsor of the bills, and believed the U.S. Supreme Court made the right decision.

“Ultimately, it’s the choice of the state legislature in Ohio that represents the will of the people in Ohio,” LaRose said. “The court was wise to leave it that way.” 

LaRose added that Ohio remains one of the top states for early voting, pointing out that states like New York have one day of voting, and that opponents of the Supreme Court’s decision are merely “playing politics.”

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde, of Ohio’s 75th House district, feels differently about the matter. She said that the decision would disproportionately hurt minority communities amid claims that voter fraud were prevalent.

“Ohio has had virtually no instances of voter fraud before or after Republican lawmakers eliminated the first week of early voting,” Clyde said. “We shouldn’t have to sue our government in order to guarantee that everyone has equal access to the ballot box.”

Angelo Angel is a senior reporter, contact him at [email protected]