The U.S. Supreme Court declined to restore an Ohio voting law popular with Democrats Tuesday, maintaining its reluctance to intervene in a deluge of voting rights litigation.
The state of Ohio adopted new voter registration rules after the 2004 presidential election, when individuals could register to vote and cast ballots on the same day. The brief period was known as “Golden Week.”
The rule was repealed by state Republicans in 2014, prompting a legal challenge from the Ohio Democratic Party, alleging the state was discriminating against minorities. Golden Week was particularly popular among black and Hispanic populations.
Despite a district court order restoring much of the law, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the state. The three-judge panel found 2-1 that repealing the laws did not place an undue burden on unregistered Ohio voter. The state offers one of the longest periods of early voting in the country. Registered Ohio voters may cast ballots over a 23-day period, including weekend and evening hours, before the actual election day. (RELATED: Weekend Circuit: North Carolina Voting Law Struck Down)
The ruling drew an impassioned dissent from Judge Damon Keith, a black judge appointed to the appellate bench by President Jimmy Carter. Keith’s dissent, heavier on history than law, argues the majority dramatically compromised constitutional equal protection, guarantees civil rights laws, and endorses the district court’s disparate impact analysis.
He asserted the majority opinion has its foundation in white supremacy, and further suggested Republican enthusiasm for voter ID laws was precipitated by the election of the nation’s first black president.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly declined to intervene in voting rights cases around the country. The justices declined to reinstate a controversial North Carolina voting law, pending submission of a petition for full review, as well as a Michigan law banning straight ticket voting.
Since the Supreme Court is unlikely to take up these challenges until a ninth justice is installed, the federal appeals courts are, for the moment, the final authority on voting rights.
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