The U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday that it will challenge attempts by Ohio’s chief election official to restrict early voting and same day registration. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that DOJ filed a statement of interest in NAACP v. Husted, contesting that Ohio has incorrectly interpreted Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act in setting election guidelines.
General Holder said DOJ has submitted filings in a voting rights case in Wisconsin, too, and that its involvement in these two state cases represents its latest steps to enforce the remaining parts of the Voting Rights Act against restrictive state laws. The decision is a follow up to DOJ’s lawsuits last year against similar measures in Texas and North Carolina.
The Ohio case involves a challenge by a civil rights group to a state law curtailing early voting and same day registration. The department’s brief contests the state of Ohio’s incorrect interpretation of the standards set forth by Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
In a statement today Holder said, “These filings are necessary to confront the pernicious measures in Wisconsin and Ohio that would impose significant barriers to the most basic right of our democracy,” he said, adding that voting laws in Wisconsin and Ohio represent the latest, misguided attempts to fix a system that isn’t broken. “These restrictive state laws threaten access to the ballot box. The Justice Department will never shrink from our responsibility to protect the voting rights of every eligible American.” DOJ promised to use every available tool to guard against all forms of discrimination, to prevent voter disenfranchisement, and to secure the rights of every citizen.
A statement of interest was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio making clear that Section 2 prohibits the state of Ohio from “imposing any voting qualification, prerequisite to voting, or any standard, practice or procedure that would result in the denial or abridgment of the right to vote on account of a person’s race, color or membership in a language minority group.” The state of Ohio has incorrectly interpreted its requirements under Section 2, the filing noted, adding that the OSOS did not take a position on any of the other claims in the case.
Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said his office remains committed to preserving the rights of every Ohio voter. “Making sure that courts continue to carefully examine voting restrictions, such as the ones recently imposed in this state, is an important part of that effort.”
State Senator Nina Turner from Cleveland, the endorsed Democrat running for Secretary of State this year, has been outspoken on voting rights. “This action by the Department of Justice illustrates the importance of this case, and the impact these restrictive voting policies have on the ability of Ohioans to cast their ballots,” she said in a statement. “By eliminating the state’s only same-day registration opportunity and the first week of early in-person voting—and doing away with evening early vote hours working Ohioans can actually use—it has become unquestionably harder for Ohioans to vote.”
Sen. Turner, undaunted by being in the Senate minority since voters sent her there in 2008, said it’s a shame that voters must continuously rely upon the federal court system to protect voter accessibility. “Ohioans deserve elected officials who are committed to making sure voters have the ballot access they need to make their voices heard,” she said today.
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