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Judge orders Ohio to restore early voting

  |   Aug. 31, 2012 at 3:16 PM
COLUMBUS, Ohio, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- A federal judge has found Ohio's restriction on early in-person voting is "arbitrary and disparate treatment" and ordered the state to restore early voting.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus came Friday in a lawsuit brought by President Barack Obama's re-election campaign and Ohio Democrats. Ohio Secretary of State John Husted has ordered all 88 Ohio county elections boards to do away with early voting on weekends -- which Ohio Democrats say has mostly been favored by voters in urban areas of the state.

Husted's order followed a vote by Republican lawmakers in Ohio to end in-person early voting on the three days prior to Election Day.

Economus ruled "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 pre-election deadline for early voting, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

"Plaintiffs will suffer irreparable injury if in-person early voting is not restored the last three days before Election Day," Economus wrote, "and there is no definitive evidence before the court that elections boards will be tremendously burdened."

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told The Dispatch his office was reviewing the decision, "but we don't believe, with all due respect to the judge," the law violates the U.S. Constitution.

"The court stresses that where the state has authorized in-person early voting through the Monday before Election Day for all voters, 'the state may not, by later arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person's vote over that of another,'" the judge wrote.

"Here, that is precisely what the state has done."

Husted, a Republican, this week fired two Democrats from a county board of elections because they voted to extend early voting hours.

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