Appeals court upholds Ohio law that shortens early voting

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[August 24, 2016]    (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld an Ohio law passed in 2014 that shortened the state's early voting period and abolished a so-called Golden Week when residents could register and cast ballots in the same week.


The 2-1 decision from a panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses a May ruling by U.S. District Judge Michael Watson who struck down the law that limited early voting, saying it violated voters' rights.

Tuesday's ruling is the latest in a flurry of legal battles over state voting rules ahead of the Nov. 8 election, including stricter voter identification laws in some states and laws on the voting rights of felons in others. . Ohio has long been a battleground swing state in presidential elections where Democrats and Republicans are tightly matched.

Ohio's Republican-controlled legislature abolished "Golden Week" and shortened early voting to 29 days from 35 days, which critics said directly limited opportunities for minority participation in elections.

Civil rights groups the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had challenged the law, but their arguments were not accepted by the majority opinion at the appeals court.

In the ruling on an appeal filed by the state government the judges said Ohio is a national leader when it comes to early voting, allowing people to vote early and in person for four weeks. "This is really quite generous," the ruling said.

The ruling said the challenged law does not result in injury under the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act and that despite the changes, "Ohio continues to provide generous, reasonable, and accessible voting options to all Ohioans."

(Reporting by Fiona Ortiz in Chicago; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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