COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- An Ohio Senate panel delayed a vote Wednesday to repeal a contentious new election law that shrinks early voting in the presidential battleground state, among other changes.
The elections overhaul has been on hold since September, after opponents gathered thousands of signatures from voters to put a repeal question on November ballots.
Republican leaders who control the Ohio Legislature say the state can avoid a costly referendum campaign and give opponents what they want by repealing it. But Democrats and other opponents say voters have the right -- not state lawmakers -- to decide this fall whether the law should be scrapped.
The GOP is pushing a measure to get rid of the new law and leave in place the old rules governing Ohio elections. The bill also reaffirms a separate change made last year that cuts off in-person early voting on the Friday before Election Day.
The chairman of the Senate's government oversight committee said Wednesday he was pushing back a scheduled vote on the legislation until next week to give minority Democrats a chance to review it.
Chairman Bill Coley, a Middletown Republican who is the sponsor of the repeal legislation, said he also wanted additional time to "make sure that the bill is doing exactly what we say that it's doing."
Any proposed change to the state's law is apt to draw increased scrutiny in a presidential election year, particularly in Ohio.
No Republican presidential nominee has reached the White House without carrying the swing state. President Barack Obama won Ohio in 2008, after the state went for George W. Bush in 2004.
Obama's re-election campaign was among the organizations that gathered signatures to get an election-law repeal referendum on fall ballots.
An extended voting period is perceived as benefiting Democrats because it increases voting opportunities for those harder to reach for an Election Day turnout -- Hispanics, blacks, new citizens and poor people.
About 30 percent of Ohio's total vote -- or roughly 1.7 million ballots -- came in ahead of Election Day in 2008.
State Sen. Keith Faber, a Celina Republican, suggested some groups appealing to the panel to not rush the law's repeal only want the issue to remain on the ballot for the political purpose of driving voter turnout.
The legislative effort to repeal the law comes after a request by the state's top elections official.
Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted has said the referendum campaign would confuse voters just as state officials were trying to educate them on voting rules. He has called for work to start on a new bill after the November election.
Ohio is one of 32 states that allow voters to cast an early ballot by mail or in person without an excuse.
The new law would shorten the in-person early voting window from 35 days before Election Day to 17 days and the period for absentee voting by mail from 35 days to 21.
Senate President Tom Niehaus has said he had wanted to repeal the measure, and possibly replace it with other changes that have bipartisan backing in time for the fall election.
His spokeswoman said Wednesday there were no current discussions going on about replacement election rules, and that the GOP were focused on working through the repeal process.
Republican House Speaker William Batchelder has said he has constitutional concerns. The state has no precedent for repealing a piece of legislation that's in limbo because of a referendum.
House spokesman Mike Dittoe said Wednesday Batchelder's concerns remain, but "at this point, the speaker is supportive of the repeal effort."