With 39 days left before the U.S. presidential election, time is running out for judges to resolve voter access lawsuits in states including Ohio and Florida where a few thousand votes may be the margin of victory between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. A federal appeals court in Cincinnati is considering Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s bid to overturn rulings blocking Republican-sponsored restrictions on early voting and provisional ballots. In Pennsylvania, voters are waiting to hear whether courts will enforce laws requiring them to show photo identification at the polls. “The sooner these matters can be resolved the better,” Matt McClellan, spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, said in a telephone interview. “They’re in an expedited process and we hope they will be resolved well in advance of the election.”
Much of the litigation stems from revisions of election procedures Republican lawmakers passed after Obama’s election in 2008. Proponents argue the laws are needed to prevent fraud and help elections run smoothly. Democrats and voter advocacy groups claim the measures are aimed at disenfranchising probable Democratic voters in a veiled effort to limit turnout for Obama. There are at least 15 cases pending nationwide over election law limits on early voting, voter registration and voter identification. Of those, almost half are in states where both candidates contend they can win. A majority of cases that have led to court rulings so far have been decided in favor of opponents to new restrictions. In Wisconsin yesterday, opponents of a voter ID law won a court victory almost guaranteeing the requirement won’t be in place there for the Nov. 6 election.