A federal judge sided with the Obama campaign on Friday and ruled that Ohio made an “arbitrary” decision when it took away early-voting rights for most voters but carved out a special exemption for military and overseas voters.
In granting a preliminary injunction against early voting restrictions, the judge ruled that the “public interest is served by restoring in-person early voting to all Ohio voters.”
Earlier this month, the Romney campaign attacked the Obama campaign’s lawsuit, calling it an “outrage” and falsely accusing the president of trying to take away early voting rights for members of the military. In reality, the lawsuit was trying to ensure that most voters, including servicemen and women, had the chance to cast their ballots early.
U.S. District Judge Peter Economus ruled that restoring a voting window for the three days before the election “does not deprive [Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act] voters from early voting” but instead “places all Ohio voters on equal standing.”
Economus pointed out that thousands of Ohio voters cast their ballots in-person during the three-day period before the 2008 election.
“This Court finds that ‘in-person early voting’ is a voting term that had included the right to vote in person through the Monday before Election Day, and, now, thousands of voters who would have voted during those three days will not be able to exercise their right to cast a vote in person,” Economus wrote. “Plaintiffs submit statistical studies to support their assertion that low-income and minority voters are disproportionately affected by the elimination of those voting days.”
Economus also wrote that Ohio’s attorneys never disputed studies showing that the burden on the Obama campaign and its supporters was high “because their constituency represents
a large percentage of those who voted in person in the last three days before Election Day.”
“Plaintiffs will suffer irreparable injury if in-person early voting is not restored the last three days before Election Day, and there is no definitive evidence before the Court that elections boards will be tremendously burdened,” Economus wrote.
“Restoring in-person early voting to all Ohio voters through the Monday before Election Day returns to voters the same opportunity to vote as previously conferred under Ohio law,” he wrote.
Romney’s campaign did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment about the ruling.
Late update: Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says he will appeal the ruling.