COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSPD) -- A federal judge has blocked an Ohio law trimming early voting and ordered the swing state's elections chief to set an expanded voting schedule.
The ruling Thursday from U.S. District Judge Peter Economus comes in a lawsuit filed by civil rights groups and others challenging two early-voting measures.
One is a directive from Secretary of State Jon Husted setting uniform voting times that restricted weekend and evening hours. Another is a law that eliminates so-called "golden week" - when people could both register to vote and cast ballots.
"It seems like the court once again sided on the rights of voters in making it easier to vote as opposed to putting hoops in the way," said Brian Rothenberg with Progress Ohio.
The judge sided with groups that claimed the changes hurt low-income and black voters disproportionately. The state argued the organizations couldn't prove the rules illegally place an undue burden on voters.
"My overarching principle for Ohio’s long-debated voting schedule is that all voters, no matter where they live, should have the same opportunity to vote. That’s why I have set uniform voting hours for all 88 counties and why I sent absentee ballot applications to voters statewide, so there would be no disparity in access. I have been consistent. This ruling is not," said Secretary of State Jon Husted, in a statement.
"During the 2012 election and beyond, this same judge said we had to implement fair and uniform days and hours’ of operation for elections in Ohio. Now he seems to say counties can set their own days and hours of operation," said Husted.
Under the judge's order, early voting would begin Sept. 30.
Husted says they'll appeal the ruling.