Judge Pauses Ohio Early Voting Restriction

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By Gregory Wallace, CNN

(CNN) — A federal court in Ohio on Friday ruled that a change in the state’s early voting procedures, which closed polls to most individuals the weekend prior to Election Day, was “likely” unconstitutional and granted a request from the Obama campaign to put enforcement of the law on hold.

The court acknowledged an argument that “low-income and minority voters are disproportionately affected by elimination” of the three days of polling for many voters and said “there is no definitive evidence… that elections boards would be tremendously burdened” by returning poll access to the standard before recent changes to the state’s laws.

A federal district court in Ohio issued a preliminary injunction on Friday, 67 days out from the November election.

President Barack Obama’s campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the Ohio Democratic Party brought the state to court this summer, arguing that the state’s two different deadlines for in-person early voting would disenfranchise some voters.

Laws recently passed by the state’s Republican-led legislature and signed by the Republican governor would close the polls to many voters at 6 p.m. the Friday before an election.

A federal law, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter Act (UOCAVA), would continue to require the state to allow some qualified voters to cast ballots during that window. The law covers those serving in the military, their family members, and U.S. citizens living overseas.

The court found that voters “have a constitutionally protected right to participate in the 2012 election – and all elections – on an equal basis with all Ohio voters, including UOCAVA voters,” and noted that the Obama campaign had submitted “statistical studies to support their assertion that low-income and minority voters are disproportionately affected by the elimination of those voting days.”

Among other precedents, the court cited the Supreme Court’s finding in Bush v. Gore, the case which effectively decided the 2000 election.

Legal action over voting regulations, such as voter identification, is underway in several states. As a key battleground state, the November result in Ohio is especially important.

A spokeswoman for the Ohio Secretary of State’s office said the ruling is being reviewed and had no further comment.

In the 2008 election, nearly three in ten Ohio ballots were cast before Election Day, and 93,000 ballots were cast in the three days before Election Day.