Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – landmark legislation that helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans. Unfortunately, in Ohio and across the United States, new voter suppression efforts have sprung up, threatening to disenfranchise millions of voters.
Protecting the right to vote has always been a bipartisan issue. Congress has reauthorized the Voting Rights Act in a bipartisan manner four times, most recently in 2006 under President Bush. In fact, the latest attacks on voting rights here in Ohio are attacks on provisions that were passed on a bipartisan basis – at a time when Republicans controlled the Ohio Statehouse.
These attacks include cutting early voting and eliminating the “Golden Week” – when voters can register and vote on the same day during the early voting period. Early voting improves access to the polls for seniors, minorities, and hourly workers. In 2012, 600,000 Ohioans – or 10 percent of the electorate – voted early. And, in Cuyahoga County in 2008, African Americans went to the polls for early voting at a rate more than 20 times greater than white voters. Offering the option to cast a ballot during a time that’s convenient for voters’ family and work schedules is critical for ensuring that all Americans have the chance to have their voices heard.
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