(photo: dbking / flickr)

The Supreme Court will not step in to block early voting hours in Ohio, delivering a win to voting rights advocates and the Obama campaign, which needs the help as polling starts to turn away from them.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted wanted to limit early voting hours and eliminate it in the weekend before the election, for inscrutable reasons. The Obama Administration sued on an equal protection basis, arguing that military voters had the opportunity to avail themselves of early voting, and the rest of the state’s voters should be afforded the same. A federal judge agreed, and though Husted attempted to take this to the Supreme Court, he failed, as the Court decided not to get involved.

So the Obama campaign will benefit from a ruling substantially similar to Bush v. Gore. In fact, their brief with the Supreme Court used Bush v. Gore to argue in favor of equal protection and the integrity of the voting process.

This is the second major ruling that will expand voting opportunities in Ohio. In addition to stopping a reduction in early voting hours, voting rights advocates successfully changed the law that banned the counting of provisional ballots in cases where poll worker error accounted for the voter using the wrong precinct (in Ohio, several precincts often vote at the same site, so this is a common mistake). Voting rights advocates have beaten back nearly every attempt at voter suppression this year in the courts.

Numbers from early voting show that the Obama campaign, by and large, has benefited. So the ruling in Ohio is thought to benefit the incumbent. If Obama wins the Kerry states and Ohio, he needs only to hold on in Wisconsin and win either Iowa or Nevada to win the election. So Ohio is pivotal, and the polling has shown Obama clinging to a lead there, even as he loses his lead to Mitt Romney nationally.

Not only may Bush v. Gore have helped Obama to re-election, it may produce a result similar to the Bush v. Gore result, where the winner of the popular vote does not ascend to the White House. The only way the Electoral College will end once and for all is if it screws a Republican Presidential nominee, 12 years after screwing a Democratic one.