Last Wednesday, the state legislature passed a bill that would eliminate the Golden Week, a 6-day early voting period wherein individuals could register and cast their votes prior to Election Day. It was signed into law on Friday by Governor John Kasich, who also recently approved a law making it more difficult for voters to receive absentee ballots and more likely that such ballots will be thrown out.
In 2012, nearly 60,000 Ohio voters took advantage of the Golden Week. The flexibility provided by this program facilitated voting by elderly individuals, minorities, low-income persons, and others who have limited time or transportation capabilities.
The implications of the new restrictions are multiple. The changes could disenfranchise a large number of people who might now be unable to access polls and participate in elections, such as elderly persons or military members. It will also likely increase waiting periods at the polls on Election Day, deterring voting even further. With Ohio remaining a key presidential swing state, the voting restrictions could have national impacts if they remain in place.
In response to the passage of these laws, the state Democratic Party has already announced an intention to sue to prevent them from taking effect. “This is unconscionable, inexcusable and likely illegal under the voting rights acts,” said state Rep. Debbie Phillips.
Sources: ThinkProgress 2/21/14, Raw Story 2/24/14, MSNBC 2/20/14