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Ohio asks federal judge hold off from immediately enforcing compliance with early voting order

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio officials asked a federal judge Friday to hold off from immediately forcing the state to comply with his ruling that expands early voting this fall.

U.S. District Judge Peter Economus temporarily blocked an Ohio law that trims early voting and ordered the state's elections chief to set an expanded voting schedule. Early voting would start Sept. 30 instead of Oct. 7. Economus also barred Secretary of State Jon Husted from preventing local elections boards from adopting additional early voting hours beyond his order.

The state is appealing Economus' Sept. 4 ruling to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which has agreed to hear it quickly.

But on Friday, a three-judge panel of the appeals court declined to stay the judge's order as the state seeks to reverse the decision. They said the state failed to demonstrate that the circumstances warrant a stay.

"We assume that Defendants will comply in good faith with the Order pending our review on appeal," the panel wrote.

The lawsuit's plaintiffs, which include the Ohio chapter of the NAACP, have requested that Economus compel Husted to comply with the ruling.

The plaintiffs claim Husted, a Republican, has yet to update his website and other voter information with an early voting schedule that reflects the court order. They also said county elections boards' websites misinform voters.

The state's attorneys said in a court filing Friday that communicating voting days and hours to elections officials and the public risks confusion if the times change upon appeal. Plus, they said, the secretary's office has been in touch with local elections officials about the order.

"Those actions apprise everyone that pending litigation makes the early-voting schedule not yet final, and those actions tell local election officials to prepare for both possible schedules," the state's attorneys told the court.

They said Husted was in the process of revising his website to include information regarding the potential for alternative voting hours and days.

Ohio residents can vote absentee by mail or in person.

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