No, the Obama Campaign Isn't Trying to Take the Vote Away from Soldiers

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 4 2012 4:40 PM

No, the Obama Campaign Isn't Trying to Take the Vote Away from Soldiers

Fifteen military organizations want to intervene in Obama v. Halsted, a lawsuit filed by the president's campaign in Ohio. The Obama filing claims that special early voting rights violate the 14th Amendment; the org leaders read that, and worry that their votes are in danger. Mitt Romney is with them.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

President Obama's lawsuit claiming it is unconstitutional for Ohio to allow servicemen and women extended early voting privileges during the state’s early voting period is an outrage. The brave men and women of our military make tremendous sacrifices to protect and defend our freedoms, and we should do everything we can to protect their fundamental right to vote.

That's all good, but the Obama campaign doesn't disagree with it. Here's the backstory. In the run-up to 2008, Democrats, who briefly ran the Secretary of State's office in Ohio, expanded early voting so that anyone could show up at polling sites in the days before the election. In 2011, the new Republican legislature and Secretary of State rolled this back. Early voting would now end on the Friday before election day. So the Obama campaign sued. This is how its argument begins.

Plaintiffs bring this lawsuit to restore in-person early voting for all Ohioans during the three days prior to Election Day – a right exercised by an estimated 93,000 Ohioans in the last presidential election. Ohio election law, as currently enacted by the State of Ohio and administered by Defendant Ohio Secretary of State, arbitrarily eliminates early voting during the three days prior to Election Day for most Ohio voters, a right previously available to all Ohio voters. This disparate treatment violates 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and can be rectified by the Court enjoining enforcement of statutory changes that eliminate early in-person voting for most Ohioans during the three days before an election.

I think that's clear enough. The Obama campaign isn't actually trying to stop veterans from voting early. The idea that they would is left over from the 2000 Florida mess, when Republicans realized there were probably votes to gain from military ballots received after the deadline had passed, and hectored Democrats for "opposing military voters" if they didn't want those ballots counted. But the Obama campaign isn't talking about military ballots coming in from Iraq and Afghanistan. It's pointing out that, under current law, an active duty soldier is able to vote, in person, up through the day before election day.

If the campaign wins, veterans will be able to vote early and so will everybody else in Ohio. To clear that up, the campaign filed a motion supporting the 15 military groups, reaffirming that "neither the substance of its Equal Protection claim, nor the relief requested, challenges the legislature’s authority to make appropriate accommodation, including early voting during the period in question, for military voters, their spouses or dependents."

The complaint is here, if you don't believe me.

I've got some more of the key documents at that link.

UPDATE: The Romney campaign's line on this gets the Snopes treatment. Congratulations! Your weekend message is on equal footing with stories like "Nostradamus predicted Obama's win."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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