Reality Check: Political fight eliminates "Golden Week"
2004's November election in Ohio was plagued by fewer polling places, unusually long lines and faulty voting equipment; headaches that left many voters so frustrated they didn't bother casting ballots.
In an effort to improve the process, Ohio lawmakers added 35 days of early voting, including a so-called "golden week." The golden week is six days where people could both register and cast a ballot in-person on the same day.
That was before Senate Bill 238, sponsored by republicans and signed into law earlier this year by Ohio's republican governor. The new law permanently eliminated golden week.
In May, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine on behalf of the NAACP arguing for golden week to be reinstated.
FOX19's Scott Schneider sat down with the president of the Hamilton County Chapter of the NAACP, who says the lawsuit isn't just about getting more minorities to the polls.
"The people who put this process together knew exactly what they were doing. Lower income people are the ones who have an issue with voting, and it is designed to keep them from getting to the polls so in my opinion it becomes a voter suppression issue," says Ishton Morton.
FOX19 reached out to Secretary of State Husted's office for comment on the lawsuit and they didn't pull any punches saying quote: "This is ridiculous. In Ohio you can vote for 24 hours a day, seven days a week for a month without ever leaving your home. It is time for Democrats to stop trying to scare people into thinking it is hard to vote and join us in explaining just how easy it is to cast a ballot in Ohio."
For the record, Ohio offers more early voting days than many states, including Kentucky, which offers none whatsoever. However, the NAACP's lawsuit is about golden week.
Kenneth Mayer is an author of one of the most comprehensive studies ever conducted on early voting. He says cutting golden week was a calculated political move:
"It's difficult to look at these kinds of restrictions in the context of Ohio elections as anything but an attempt to drive down turnout among groups that are more likely to vote democratic," Mayer says.
Last week U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he's joining the ACLU in the fight to restore golden week. And that's the bottom line: This is a political fight pitting republicans against democrats in a swing state that's become critical to both parties.