Voting rights advocates and had some wins and some losses recently in their effort to ensure that millions of African-Americans and other minorities are not disenfranchised in November. Restrictive early voting rules in Ohio, a must-win state for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, has been at the center of debate and facing increasing criticism, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has directed all election boards to stay open until 7 p.m. after it was revealed that GOP-dominated counties had later hours. He will not, however, allow voting to take place on weekends. One elections board member who opposes weekend hours gave organizations fighting to expand in-person early voting to weekends some ammunition. “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine,” said Doug Preisse, a county Republican Party chairman, in an email to The Dispatch. “Let’s be fair and reasonable.” Here's what else happened on the voting rights front.
Pennsylvania: Voting rights activists received a blow last week when a Pennsylvania judge rejected an injunction on the state's voter ID law that will be in effect in November. Viviette Applewhite, 93, the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the law, this year became the face of voter disenfranchisement and received nationwide attention. Since her purse was stolen years ago, she had been unable to obtain the government-issued identification now required to cast a ballot in her state in November. But in an ironic twist, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation last week bent the rules for Applewhite and provided her with the ID she needs to vote. The lawsuit, however, is still headed to the state Supreme Court.
Florida: Early voting has been restored in five Florida counties protected by the Voting Rights Act, a victory for advocates who had argued that the reduced early voting period would disproportionately affect African-Americans and other minorities. But they also would like to see all of the state's 67 counties have that same opportunity.
Ohio: President Obama's campaign is continuing its fight to extend the ability to vote early through the Monday before the election enjoyed by members of the military to all Ohio residents. In addition, Reuters reports, two Democratic election officials may be dismissed for trying to extend early voting hours to weekends, which is prohibited by the state's law. "It's abundantly clear that Republicans are prepared to do whatever they need to do in order to game this election in their favor, including suppressing voters across Ohio," Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern told the website.
Virginia: The Department of Justice has cleared Virginia's voter ID law. And as such laws go, it is more forgiving than many passed in other states. Students who present an ID issued by a state college or university will be allowed to vote. The state also allows documents that don't have photos, such as a current utility bill, bank statement, government check or paycheck that shows the voter's name and address.
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(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)