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Friday
Oct052012

Obama Campaign, Democrats Win in Ohio Early Vote Case

Comstock/Thinkstock(TOLEDO, Ohio) -- The Obama campaign has won a legal victory in Ohio that, like other recent decisions, should make it easier for voters to cast their ballots.

A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of the Obama campaign and local Democratic National Committee officials who challenged Ohio’s early in-person voting system.

Friday’s ruling is the latest to favor Democrats in cases challenging voter restrictions in the weeks leading up to the election.

In 2011, the voting deadlines in Ohio were changed to allow only military and overseas voters to participate in early voting three days before the election.

Democrats -- who challenged the change -- argued that a significant number of Ohio voters would be precluded from voting without the additional three days of in-person early voting.

On Friday, a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Democrats. The court affirmed a lower court’s issuance of a preliminary injunction against the change in the law.

“While we readily acknowledge the need to provide military voters more time to vote,” the court ruled, “we see no corresponding justification for giving others less time.”

The court said it was returning discretion to local boards of elections to allow all Ohio voters to vote from Saturday, Nov. 3, through Monday, Nov. 5.

The court said, “The state must show that its decision to reduce the early voting time for non-military voters is justified by a ‘sufficiently weighty’ interest. The state has proposed no interest which would justify reducing the opportunity to vote by a considerable segment of the voting population.”

John Husted, Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, has argued in part that the reduced voting hours were necessary to address the needs of the Ohio elections board as it prepared for Election Day. The state also claimed that military service members and their families had unique challenges when it came to voting so that in-person early voting should be extended to them, but not to other Ohio voters.

Husted issued a statement Friday: “My office is reviewing today’s decision by the court as we determine the best course of action moving forward. … No action will be taken today or this weekend.”

Husted has the option of appealing the decision to the full panel of judges on the 6th Circuit.

An Obama campaign official, meanwhile, hailed the decision and touted it as the latest in a string of legal victories for the campaign involving voting rights.

“Ohio joins Wisconsin, Florida, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania as states that turned back restrictions on voter access and limitations on voter participation,” Obama for America general counsel Bob Bauer said in a prepared statement. “The appellate court today affirmed the district court’s decision in ‘OFA v. Husted’ and held unanimously that every Ohioan should have equal access to early voting. As a result of this decision, every voter, including military, veterans, and overseas voters alongside all Ohioans, will have the same opportunity to vote early through the weekend and Monday before the election.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio