A federal judge ruled Friday that Ohio must allow in-person voting on the weekend before the presidential election, a victory for Democrats who claimed Republican efforts to close down early voting were aimed at discouraging voters most likely to support President Obama. The ruling is the second this week on Ohio voting. Ohio has allowed in-person voting the weekend before the election since 2005, and U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus said Friday that the state did not offer a convincing argument as to why it was changing the rules now. The change contained an exception for military voters, and the Obama campaign and Ohio Democrats said all voters should be allowed to vote on the weekend.
Economus, a senior judge appointed by President Bill Clinton, agreed. “On balance, 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 the 6 p.m. Friday deadline,” Economus wrote. “The burden on Ohio voters’ right to participate in the national and statewide election is great, as evidenced by the statistical analysis offered by plaintiffs and not disputed by defendants.”
Democrats said 93,000 people voted on the weekend before the 2008 election, and several studies have shown that the elderly, the poor and minorities are more likely to take advantage of voting opportunities offered outside normal business hours. In passing the law, Ohio’s Republican-led legislature said local boards of elections needed the weekend free to prepare for Election Day. State Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) said he would appeal the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.