Ohio Says It Will Appeal Ruling on Early-Voter Limits

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine appealed a ruling by a U.S. judge that threw out a Republican-backed law that cut three days of early voting for most of the state’s citizens.

U.S. District Judge Peter Economus in Columbus ruled Aug. 31 in a lawsuit brought by Obama for America that Ohio can’t give members of the military and citizens living abroad three days more than other voters to cast ballots. He ordered the previous schedule restored, which allowed anyone to vote until the day before an election.

DeWine, a Republican, filed a one-paragraph notice of appeal of the decision to the federal appeals court in Cincinnati today. Jon Husted, Ohio’s secretary of state, joined the appeal, DeWine said in the filing.

The appeals court will next set a briefing schedule for both sides to file papers on their positions, Dan Tierney, a spokesman for DeWine, said in an interview today. No schedule has been set yet, Tierney said.

Fights over voting access are intensifying in states including Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where both Republican and Democratic presidential campaigns see a possibility of victory. Voter cases are also under way in Alabama, Texas, Tennessee and South Carolina.

Electoral College

Ohio holds 18 of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win a presidential race and no Republican has captured the White House without a victory there. In 2008, Barack Obama carried the state with 51.5 percent of the vote.

Ohio previously had one early-voting period that enabled all voters to cast ballots until the day before Election Day. Legislation signed by Republican Governor John Kasich during the past two years cut back early voting, retaining the right to vote in person during the last three days only for people residing abroad or in the military.

Obama and Democrats sued DeWine and Husted on July 17, arguing the disparate treatment of two groups was unconstitutional.

Economus, appointed in 1995 by Democratic President Bill Clinton, rejected the state’s arguments that election boards would be “tremendously burdened” by allowing the last three days of early voting for all.

“This court finds that plaintiffs have a constitutionally protected right to participate in the 2012 election -- and all elections -- on an equal basis with all Ohio voters,” Economus said in his Aug. 31 ruling.

Ohio officials disagreed with the decision, DeWine said in a statement last week.

“We have always allowed distinction for military voters, and to say this violates equal protection is wrong,” he said.

The case is Obama for America v. Husted, 12-cv-00636, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio (Columbus).

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