The Supreme Court refused on Tuesday morning to reinstate even temporarily an extra five days of voting in Ohio this year — the so-called “Golden Week” that the state legislature eliminated three years ago. No dissents were noted in the brief and unexplained order.
In a separate case, the Court refused to block a Senate investigating subcommittee’s demand for records on how an online publisher of ads — including sexually explicit items — makes its editorial decisions. Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., took no part, but there was no indication of any dissent.
The Court’s action on early voting was a significant blow to the Democratic Party in the state, because the “Golden Week” opportunity — when it existed — had brought out tens of thousands of black and low income voters who normally support Democratic candidates. In the 2004 election, some 60,000 voters took advantage of that option.
In this year’s presidential election, as in most such elections in modern times, Ohio appears likely to be a battleground state where both parties’ candidates will be competitive.
The state Democratic party and some of its county committees had asked the Court to delay a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, rejecting the challenge to the elimination of that period of voting. Ohioans will still have 30 days of early voting this year, before election day, but they have to be registered before doing so. Under the “Golden Week” option, for five days before the 30-day voting span opened, an Ohioan could register and vote on the same day.
Last May, a federal judge ruled that the legislature’s elimination of “Golden Week” was unconstitutional and violated the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. That was the order the Sixth Circuit Court overturned, and Tuesday’s action by the Supreme Court left the Circuit Court ruling undisturbed.
The Justices acted on the issue after Justice Elena Kagan had referred the Democrats’ request to her colleagues for action.
The Court’s separate order on Tuesday on a Senate investigation came in a case involving Backpage.com, an online publisher of “classified ads” on many subjects. The Senate panel is investigating claims that the “adult section” of Backpage has contributed to illegal activity in sex trafficking.
The online site and its chief executive officer have been fighting the Senate subcommittee for more than a year. On September 6, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., temporarily delayed any enforcement of the panel’s subpoena until after the lawyers for the subcommittee could respond.
The Chief Justice then referred the issue to the full Court, leading to Tuesday’s order denying Backpage any further relief, and lifting the Chief Justice’s temporary order.
Backpage, represented in its request by prominent lawyers in the field of First Amendment law, had hoped that the case could lead the Court to reopen the question of whether the Amendment protects a right to gather information for publication.