On Tuesday, a law limiting voting in Ohio was struck down, in what has already been hailed by Democrats and voting rights advocates as a big win. The law, voted in by Republicans and signed by Ohio Gov. and former GOP presidential candidate John Kasich, would have eliminated "Golden Week," the week leading up to Election Day. During that week, voters can register and vote at the same time, easing the process and allowing for a higher turnout.
This would have suppressed voting by black and Hispanic voters, Democrats argued in challenging the law. They are more likely to vote early (and Democratic). "The racial impact just sticks out like such a sore thumb," David A. Pepper, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, told The New York Times. "I certainly don't think that's an accident." Republicans, of course, claimed the law was only aimed at combating voter fraud. The courts sided with the Democrats.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson, once the chief counsel for a former Republican governor, said eliminating this voting period would have been created a "modest, as well as disproportionate, burden" on African American voters and thus violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the U.S. Constitution. Black voters voted during "Golden Week" at a rate 3.5 times that of whites in 2008 and a staggering 5 times as often as whites in 2012.
If the ruling stands, voters will be able to vote up to 35 days before election day. This would be very good for the Hillary Clinton campaign. The campaign's top lawyer, Marc Elias, served as the head lawyer on the case. On Tuesday, he told Mother Jones one reason why:
We are thrilled with the results. The restoration of Golden Week is a win for Ohio voters and all [who] support voting rights. It's a shame that Republican officials continue to fight against increased access to the polls, making lawsuits like this necessary.
There's probably more to it though. The "Golden Week" law was passed after the 2004 election when voters stood in line for hours to cast ballots, especially in minority areas where Democrats do well. Many went home without voting and George W. Bush won the state by 2.1 percentage points. Had John Kerry won, he would have won the election.
Most of Clinton's — or any Democrat's — paths to victory include Ohio. Her campaign will want to do everything it can to ensure Democrats can get out to vote this November and — they hope — October. There is the chance this case could be appealed up the chain, even making it to the Supreme Court. There are other cases winding their way through the system too, from Texas to North Carolina. For Ohio voters' sake, let's hope the ruling stands until Election Day.