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In blow to Romney, court says Ohio can’t restrict 'souls to the polls' voting by blacks

A federal appeals court says an Ohio decision to allow only military personnel three days of early voting is unconstitutional. It could help Obama and hurt Romney in a critical swing state.

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A supporter chants "four more years" as President Barack Obama speaks at campaign rally in Cleveland, Ohio, on Friday.

Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS

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The Obama administration scored another voting rights win on Friday when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit said the key swing state of Ohio can’t single out military voters for special treatment – a ruling that will re-open a three-day weekend voting period that’s become known to black voters as the “souls to the polls” program.

Most Electoral College analysis lists Ohio as the most critical swing state for Mitt Romney. The Rasmussen Reports poll had Romney trailing Obama by 1 point in Ohio after Wednesday night's debate. It’s widely believed that military voters are likely to favor Romney while other voters who take advantage of early voting at higher than average rates – minorities, the elderly and the poor – have stronger attachments to Democrats.

The Romney campaign this summer seized on the Obama administration’s decision to confront Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State, Jon Husted, about the decision to close weekend voting to all but military members as a slap against the military. (Husted said he did it at the behest of election officials who wanted the weekend before the election to prepare the polls.) But the campaign said it was about equal opportunity, and the federal circuit court largely agreed.

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