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ACLU is suing over Ohio voting restrictions
Group says they discriminate and violate the Voting Rights Act

Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
African American voters are more likely to vote early than other voting blocks.
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In The Region:

UPDATE 2:28 p.m.: A statement issued by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted's office calls the lawsuit "ironic," and the voting schedule "bipartisan." The complete statement is at the end of this story.

The American Civil Liberties Union is filing a federal lawsuit today challenging controversial cuts in Ohio’s early voting days. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports that the suit says the cuts discriminate against African Americans and Hispanics.

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OPR'S Jo Ingles on the debate over early voting

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The suit says the cuts made by the GOP Legislature and Secretary of State Jon Husted violate the Voting Rights Act.

The changes eliminated six days of Ohio’s early-voting period during which people could both register to vote and cast their ballots. And they eliminated early in-person voting on weekday nights and on Sundays, when many African-American churches held voting drives called “Souls to the Polls.”

A question of fairness
Husted’s spokesman Matt McClellan say the changes are to be fair to all voters.

“It’s about the voter, and it’s important that every voter, whenever they’re voting on the same issues such as in a statewide race or in races and issues that span multiple counties, that those voters have the same level of access to the ballot.”

He accuses opponents of the changes of scaring voters rather than educating them on voting options.

No small changes
But the Mike Brickner of the Ohio ACLU, says the changes are not inconsequential.

“Those weekend hours were extremely important for people to have the most opportunities. We’re not expressly opposed to uniformity. But we can’t get to uniformity by cutting opportunities that many Ohioans need.”

The civil liberties group is pushing for the federal courts to block the changes before the November election.

The voting rights debate has been a key part of state Sen. Nina Turner’s campaign against Husted in November, and of Ed FitzGerald’s challenge of Gov. John Kasich. Both are Democrats.

Statement from Ohio Secretary of State spokesman Matt McClellan:

“It’s ironic that Secretary Husted is being sued for treating all voters equally and for supporting a bipartisan voting schedule that gives Ohioans an entire month to cast ballots. 

“The ACLU is targeting the wrong state because by every objective measure Ohio has expansive opportunities to vote. 

“Jon Husted has been a leader in that effort. As speaker, he pushed for the adoption of no-fault absentee voting. When he became Secretary of State, he implemented an online change of address system and has continued to fight for full online voter registration. He’s the first Secretary of State to send out absentee ballot applications statewide and he is the first Secretary of State to ensure all voters, no matter what county they live in, have the same opportunities to vote in the month leading up to the election. 

“The ACLU would be better served to focus on states like New York or Delaware or Michigan or Kentucky where there’s no early voting at all.

 “The fact is that it’s easy to vote in Ohio and the plaintiffs should be joining Secretary Husted in making sure all voters know their voting options rather than trying to scare them into believing it’s hard. That’s the real voter suppression.”

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