Ohio court backs pre-Election Day voting for all

Poll workers look on at a polling place during Super Tuesday voting on March 6, 2012 in Youngstown, Ohio. The two top Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are running neck and neck in the state. Mario Tama/Getty Images

COLUMBUS, Ohio A federal appeals court on Friday reinstated in-person early voting in the battleground of Ohio on the final three days before the Nov. 6 election, handing a victory to President Barack Obama's campaign.

But local boards of elections would have the discretion to decide whether to allow voters to cast an early ballot on the weekend and Monday before Election Day — just as they could in 2008.

The ruling by the three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati came in a case targeting a state law that ends early voting for most residents on the Friday evening before a Tuesday election. The law makes an exception for military personnel and Ohio voters living overseas.

Obama's campaign and Democrats sued Ohio's Secretary of State Jon Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine, both Republicans, over the legality of the law. They argued that everyone should have a chance to vote on those days.

Husted said Friday evening that his office was still reviewing the 6th Circuit's decision.

"On Monday, we will make a determination on how to proceed legally and provide administrative guidance to Ohio's boards of elections," his office said in a statement.

Ohio is among 34 states, plus the District of Columbia, where people can vote early without giving any reason. About 30 percent of the swing state's total vote — or roughly 1.7 million ballots — came in ahead of Election Day in 2008. Crucial to Obama's win that year was early voting in Ohio, North Carolina and Florida.

Mr. Obama won Ohio in the last presidential election, but Republican rival Mitt Romney is making a strong play for it. No GOP candidate has won the White House without Ohio in his column.

President Obama's campaign praised the Ohio ruling in a statement Friday.

"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," said Bob Bauer, general counsel for Obama for America.

In the same week as the Ohio decision, a judge ruled Tuesday that Pennsylvania voters won't have to show photo identification to cast ballots on Election Day, a move that could help Obama.

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