On Friday, in what is being hailed as a major victory for Democrats, U.S. district Judge Peter Economus wrote that the lawyers for Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted had failed to “articulate a precise compelling interest” in establishing a Friday deadline for non-military voters.
Overturning the early voting restrictions in Ohio, the judge wrote, “On balance, the right of Ohio voters to vote in person during the last three days prior to Election Day — a right previously conferred to all voters by the state — outweighs the state’s interest in setting a 6 p.m. deadline.” President Barrack Obama’s campaign had been arguing that the early voting restrictions disproportionately hurt Democrats.
While Ohio is a critical state in election politics this November, the state had cut off early balloting on the Friday before Election Day except for members of the military, saying that the measure would prevent election fraud and give election boards the time to prepare for voting. Voting in person is to begin on Oct 2.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine issued a statement saying he would appeal the ruling.
The provisions of Early Voting were enacted in Ohio in 2005 following the experience of the long lines in the 2004 presidential election. The practice was limited by legislation last year, though opponents overturned most of the changes under threat of a referendum. However, the changes made regarding voting on the three days before the election were not restored.
Obama’s re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee, as well as the Ohio Democratic Party sued to reinstate early in-person voting throughout the weekend and on the Monday before the Nov. 6 election. According to Democrats, about 93,000 voters used the time-period at issue in 2008.
Alicia Reece, a Democrat from Cincinnati, praised the decision and said, “I would urge Secretary of State Husted not to appeal the decision and to comply with the orders of the court which will ensure all Ohio voters have equal opportunities to get to the polls and have their voices heard.”
Republicans argue the measures are required to reduce election fraud.