When early voting starts in Ohio next month, it will not include “Golden Week” – a window at the start of the early voting period in which voters can both register to vote and vote on the same day. The state implemented Golden Week in the wake of the 2004 presidential election, when many Ohio voters encountered long waits at the polls, but in 2013 the Ohio legislature passed a law that abolished it. Last month, a federal appeals court rejected a challenge to the 2013 law by Ohio Democrats, who argued that the elimination of Golden Week discriminated against African Americans, who were more likely to use the early voting opportunities. Today the Supreme Court – without any noted dissent – turned down a last-ditch effort by Democrats to block the appeals court’s ruling and reinstate Golden Week for the upcoming election.
The state had urged the Justices not to intervene. It emphasized that Ohio residents have a longer window for voting than their counterparts in most other states, and that in the 2014 election – during which the 2013 law was in effect – African Americans in Ohio had in fact voted at the same rates as white residents.
Ohio Democrats countered that Golden Week “had played an exceptional, historic role in promoting voter registration in the past two Presidential elections, especially in minority communities.” And, they added, it is simply too late to eliminate Golden Week now, particularly when some election boards had continued to advertise the longer early voting period. But those arguments apparently could not garner the five votes that they would have needed to save Golden Week for the upcoming election.
Today’s one-sentence order is the Justices’ third foray into election law in recent weeks, with the previous two going against the states. On August 31, the Justices rejected a request by North Carolina to allow it to enforce three provisions of its controversial 2013 election law – one of which would have required voters to show a government-issued photo ID – in the November election. And on September 9, the Justices refused to allow Michigan to enforce a 2015 law that would eliminate “straight-ticket voting,” which allows voters to cast a vote for all of the candidates from a particular party by filling in a single bubble.