Since Republicans discovered that lower turnout helps their chances of winning elections – see 2010 and 2014 – they have made a widespread effort to make it harder for some Americans to cast their ballots.
A total of 22 states have enacted tough voter restrictions in the last six years, whether it’s cutting early voting hours or eliminating same-day registration. In 17 of those states, 2016 is the first year these strict laws will be in place for a presidential election.
Today, a Republican federal judge is hoping to hit the brakes on Republican efforts to restrict voting in at least one of those states: Ohio.
Federal Judge Michael Watson of Columbus said the restrictions – Senate Bill 238 – adversely impact African-American voters in the state. The judge called the law a violation of both the Consitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“The court finds that SB 238 results in less opportunity for African Americans to participate in the political process than other voters,” Watson said, according to a report by The Columbus Dispatch.
Watson ruled that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine, both Republicans, must stop enforcing the reduced voting periods that GOP Gov. John Kasich signed into law in 2014.
A spokesperson for the attorney general said Watson’s ruling will be repealed, The Dispatch noted.
If the decision stands, Ohioans will be able to cast their ballots 35 days prior to this year’s general election, including the “Golden Week” when voters can register and vote on the same day.
In the event that the voting limitations are restored, the nearly 15,000 African-American voters who registered and voted on the same day in 2012 would be denied the same opportunity in 2016 – enough votes to turn a close election in one of the most pivotal swing states in the country.
Of course, turning a close election was the plan all along, wasn’t it?
For now, at least one state – a critical one – is protected from Republican efforts to suppress turnout to win elections.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.