On September 29, less than a day before early voting was set to begin in Ohio, a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling restricted voters’ access to the ballot by removing the first week of the state’s 35-day early voting period.
The Supreme Court granted state officials’ request Monday evening to block an appeals court ruling that would have allowed early voting to begin Tuesday. By allowing restrictive legislation passed by the state to go forward, Monday’s decision also eliminated the only week in Ohio’s early voting period that allowed for same-day registration, which is most often used by minority voters. The Ohio legislation also eliminated voting on the Sunday before the election, a day heavily used by minority voters, who may not be able to take time off work to vote. It’s also a day when many churches in African-American communities lead Sunday “souls to the polls” voting efforts.
By increasing voting flexibility, early voting periods address the systemic barriers that disproportionately prevent minority voters from getting to the polls. The ability to vote requires access to transportation, time to get to the polls, as well as costs like child care and transportation that are higher for minorities and low-income Americans. Minorities are also disproportionately represented in non-salaried jobs, which requires them to have to decide between voting or taking time off and losing part of a day’s pay. In Ohio, African Americans are also four times less likely than Whites to own a car, and twice as likely to be single parents.
The Court’s decision comes on the heels of a string of recent voting rights restrictions passed nationwide following Shelby County v. Holder – a case in which the Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. This decision will disparately affect minority voters across the state by infringing on their fundamental right to vote.