Ohio can cut 'Golden Week' early voting, federal appeals court rules

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Story highlights

  • Ohio's 'Golden Week' allows simultaneous registration and voting
  • A federal appeals court said Ohio has the right to eliminate it
  • Early voting is still allowed in the state

(CNN)A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that Ohio does not have to reinstate its so-called "Golden Week" -- a week-long period in the state where people can both register to vote and cast a ballot at the same time.

The opinion is a defeat for the Ohio Democratic Party, among others, which had argued that the elimination of the period imposed a disparate burden on African-Americans. Those voters predominately favor Democrats, and Ohio is expected to go down to the wire this November.
    Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by 4 percentage points, according to a Monmouth University poll released Monday.
    Ohio's Secretary of State Jon Husted defended the state regulation -- Senate Bill 238 -- that cut back early in-person voting from 35 days to 29 days. Tuesday's 2-1 ruling by a three-judge panel of the appeals court reverses a district court opinion from May.
    "Ohio is a national leader when it comes to early voting opportunities," Judge David McKeague of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, wrote in the opinion. The judge pointed out that nearly a third of the states offer no early voting at all.
    "The issue is not whether some voter somewhere would benefit from six additional days of early voting or from the opportunity to register and vote at the same time," McKeague wrote. "Rather, the issue is whether the challenged law results in a cognizable injury under the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act. We conclude that it does not."
    The law afforded "abundant and convenient opportunities for all Ohioans to exercise their right to vote," the court added.
    In a statement, Husted said there are multiple options for Ohio voters to cast ballots. "This issue has been dragged through the courts by political activists twice over the course of several years and both times it has ended with the same result: Ohio's laws are fair and constitutional. I hope the democrats will end their wasteful lawsuits so we can all move forward with this election," he said.
    Marc E. Elias, general counsel for Hillary for America, tweeted that he was disappointed with the ruling. "Bad for voters," he wrote. "Bad for voting rights."
    Judge Jane Branstetter Stranch, writing in dissent, said she agreed with the district's court finding in May that the law "improperly burdens the right to vote of African-American citizens of Ohio and constitutes a violation equal protection."
    McKeague and Judge Richard Allen Griffin were appointed by President George W. Bush, while Stanch is a nominee of President Barack Obama.
    The opinion comes as voting rights challengers are percolating in the lower courts in advance of the election. The Supreme Court is currently considering an emergency application from North Carolina concerning its Republican-led voting rights law.