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Ohio's top elections official issues new early voting hours following federal court order

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio's elections chief set a longer early voting schedule ahead of the fall election, while vowing Monday to continue appealing a federal judge's ruling that led to the new times in the swing state.

In a Sept. 4 decision, U.S. District Judge Peter Economus blocked an Ohio law trimming early voting and ordered Secretary of State Jon Husted to set an expanded schedule that includes a Sept. 30 start to early voting instead of Oct. 7.

The judge also barred Husted from preventing local elections boards from adopting additional early voting hours beyond his order.

Husted said that could create a "patchwork" of rules across the state.

"Having a myriad of different rules set just before an election will not only create confusion among the electorate, but more importantly, it simply isn't fair to treat voters in one county different than voters in another," Husted said in a Monday statement.

Husted said he has complied with the ruling but must seek to reverse it. He is expected to file a brief with the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati contending that all voters should have the same opportunities to vote, no matter where they live.

Economus and a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit recently declined to delay the decision while Ohio appeals the case.

Husted, a Republican, issued a directive late Friday to county boards of elections containing the new schedule, which includes certain evening hours and another Sunday to cast an early ballot before the Nov. 4 election.

Ohioans can vote absentee by mail or in person.

The court order makes this year's early voting schedule more expansive than the one in place for the 2012 presidential election, the secretary of state's office said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio brought the lawsuit in May on behalf of the state chapters of the NAACP and the League of Women Voters and others.

Mike Brickner, senior policy director for the ACLU of Ohio, said the organization was pleased with Husted's new directive.

"We want to get this information out to as many people as possible so that they know about these opportunities to vote early," Brickner said in an interview Monday.

The groups challenged two early voting measures in the presidential battleground state.

One was a directive from Husted that established uniform early voting times and restricted weekend and evening hours. Another was a GOP-backed law passed in February that eliminates golden week, when people could both register to vote and cast ballots. Without those days, early voting would typically start 28 or 29 days before Election Day instead of the prior 35-day window.

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