- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 10, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A federal judge declined Wednesday to suspend his order expanding early voting in Ohio this fall while the state appeals the decision.

Attorneys for the state had asked U.S. District Judge Peter Economus to stay his ruling to avoid voter confusion.

In denying the request, Economus said a stay would only increase the “flip-flopping” of the early voting schedule, resulting in greater confusion.

Last week, he temporarily blocked an Ohio law that trims early voting and ordered the state’s election chief to set an expanded voting schedule. Early voting would begin 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 the Sept. 4 decision to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

Ohioans can vote absentee by mail or in person.

The state’s chapters of the NAACP and the League of Women Voters are among those who brought the lawsuit over two early voting measures in the perennial presidential battleground state.

One is a directive from Husted that established uniform early voting times and restricted weekend and evening hours. Another is a GOP-backed law 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.

Economus has allowed the General Assembly, which is controlled by Republican, to join the state in its appeal. But Democrats in the Ohio House are seeking to split in the case.

House Democratic Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard told the state’s attorney general that the intervention does not reflect her members’ interests to protect early voting opportunities.

“I seek representation for myself and my Democratic colleagues from your office so that we have equal opportunity to intervene,” she wrote in a letter Wednesday to Attorney General Mike DeWine.

DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said the office would respond to the letter “in due course.”

Tierney said the attorney general has no legal authority to appoint special counsel to represent either the majority or minority caucuses in the Legislature.

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