All Ohio voters will be allowed to cast ballots in person during the three days leading up to the November election, a victory for the Obama campaign in the key battleground state.
The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a lower court decision to prevent a Republican-passed law that rolled back early voting from going into effect.
President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are running almost even in the swing state. In 2008, early voting in that final weekend before Election Day helped Democrats win the state. For example, many heavily African-American churches arranged for congregants, who traditionally vote Democrat, to take buses to the polls on the Sunday before the election.
The Republican-controlled Ohio legislatute has passed a law that barred early voting during the weekend before the election for everyone except military personnel and voters living overseas. The Obama campaign sued the state over the law, arguing in court that the state could not allow overseas and military voters to cast ballots during that period unless they allowed all voters the same opportunity.
Democrats have argued that about 100,000 people voted in the three days prior to the 2008 election who would be adversely affected by the law.
"We are pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to overturn federal court rulings that every Ohioan be allowed to vote during the weekend and Monday before the election," Obama campaign general counsel Bob Bauer said in a statement. "This action from the highest court in the land marks the end of the road in our fight to ensure open voting this year for all Ohioans, including military, veterans, and overseas voters."
Ohio's Republican legislature had argued that the law would not cause voters to be disenfranchised and said the law was necessary to ease the burden on state officials to prepare for Election Day. Republicans also claimed that the Obama campaign's lawsuit would run aground of state sovereignty.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican who opposed the Obama campaign's lawsuit, released a statement following the ruling that establishes uniform hours for early voting by both military and nonmilitary voters alike during the weeend prior to the election. Voters will be able to cast ballots from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 3, from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 4, and from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Monday, November 5.
Democrats currently have an edge in the Buckeye State's most populous county. According to Bloomberg News, more than 60 percent of the nearly 48,000 absentee ballots returned from Cuyahoga County as of Oct. 14 were cast by registered Democrats, while about 20 percent were cast by registered Republicans.