Ruling in a lawsuit brought by the Obama campaign and Ohio Democrats, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found state officials had "proposed no interest which would justify reducing the opportunity to vote by a considerable segment of the voting population," The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch reported.
"The public interest ... favors permitting as many qualified voters to vote as possible," the court ruled.
The suit challenged an order by Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted restricting early voting, which Ohio Democrats say has mostly been favored by voters in urban areas of the electoral battleground state. Husted's order followed the 2011 enactment of a law in the Republican-dominated legislature eliminating early voting after the Friday before Election Day.
U.S. District Judge Peter Economus had previously ordered restoration of early voting, but the state appealed.
The lawsuit, in part, argued it was unconstitutional to eliminate early voting for non-military citizens while permitting active military and overseas voters and their families to vote early.
"There is no reason to provide these voters with fewer opportunities to vote than military voters, particularly when there is no evidence that local boards of elections will be unable to cope with more early voters," the court ruled. "While we readily acknowledge the need to provide military voters more time to vote, we see no corresponding justification for giving others less time."
Husted said his office was reviewing the decision "as we determine the best course of action moving forward. No action will be taken today, or this weekend."