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ODP Taking Golden Week Lawsuit to Supreme Court

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega ODP Taking Golden Week Lawsuit to Supreme Court
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Golden Week — Ohio’s unique early voting period where voters can register and cast all in one — is dead and gone, but the Ohio Democratic Party plans to resurrect it. Again.

The bill (SB 238) eliminating Golden Week was conceived in 2013 and signed into law in February of 2014 by Gov. John Kasich, sparking the lawsuit between the ODP and Secretary of State Jon Husted.

U.S. District Judge Michael Watson restored the week in May, but just last Tuesday the decision was overturned by a 2-1 vote from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge David McKeague, who wrote the opinion, said federal courts have no place interfering with how states legislate the election process and that removing the week leaves plenty of opportunities for people to vote.

“No one denies that our Constitution…establishes certain fundamental rights — including the right to vote — that warrant vigilant enforcement,” McKeague said. “But our Constitution also defines the relationship between spheres of government, state and federal, and their responsibilities for protecting the rights of the people. The genius of this balance of power is no less deserving of vigilant respect.”

Still, ODP leader David Pepper isn’t convinced. After Watson’s decision was overturned, the ODP released a statement implying the fight isn’t over.

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“The Ohio Democratic Party took on this case because Golden Week has been a popular and cherished feature of our elections for a decade and has allowed tens of thousands of Ohioans to safely and conveniently cast a ballot,” Pepper said. “We are disappointed with the Circuit Court panel’s decision today, and we are examining our next steps to ensure Golden Week is restored.”

Until yesterday it wasn’t clear if there even was a next step. To take the case to the Supreme Court would put the decision on a court divided evenly between liberal and conservative minds, 4-4. A tie would only uphold the appeals court’s decision. A tweet on Monday from Progress Ohio, retweeted by the ODP, confirmed the plan to take the case forward to the Supreme Court anyway.

Ohio still has 29 days of early voting without Golden Week, but ACLU Ohio said its elimination will potentially shut out a lot of disenfranchised voters, like people with disabilities, seniors, the homeless, new Ohio residents, and people with limited access to transportation.

“Rather than seeking to curtail the ability of voters to cast their ballot more easily, Ohio’s legislators should strive to be leaders in the country by providing a fair, flexible and secure system that benefits all voters,” said a statement on the ACLU website.

Judge Jane Branstetter Stranch, the one dissenting voice on the appeals court panel, said SB 238 was just another result of the Shelby v Holder decision of 2013. The ruling eliminated “preclearance,” a measure requiring federal approval of state voting legislation from states with discriminatory pasts, from the Voting Rights Act.

“It explains why it is healthy to scrutinize the river of state voting regulations that has flowed in the wake of Shelby County v. Holder,” Stranch wrote. “Such scrutiny should be seen not as heavy-handed judicial rejection of legislative priorities, but as part of a process of harmonizing those priorities with the fundamental right to vote.”

17 states have passed restrictions on voting since the Shelby v Holder decision, from curbing voter registration drives to changing the form of ID required to vote.

ODP’s lawsuit is just one part of the ongoing fight to fully restore the Voting Rights Act. Two pieces of legislation that would restore preclearance are awaiting action.

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