Bush v. Gore Saves Early Voting in Ohio

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 16 2012 2:29 PM

Bush v. Gore Saves Early Voting in Ohio

On a day filled with pundits who don't know what the hell they're talking about, the great Stephanie Mencimer reported out a prediction and got it right. Democrats were suing to keep Ohio's early vote, from the weekend through the Monday before election. Republicans -- the ones who control the state's election office currently -- were suing to block early votes for everyone except military voters. Mencimer pointed to the precedent of Bush v. Gore, which "argued that [Florida's] procedures failed to treat all ballots equally and thus had violated the 14th Amendment."

Bush v. Gore won out. Ohio will have early voting for all who are eligible.

Now that it's in the past, let us remember how the Romney campaign tried to demagogue this story. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted fought a months-long battle with local election officials, ruling against early votes for anyone who wasn't in the military. The Democrats sued. Romney, in August, claimed that the administration was arguing "it is unconstitutional for Ohio to allow servicemen and women extended early voting privileges during the state’s early voting period is an outrage." We're not supposed to call these sorts of things "lies," so let's call this the complete opposite of the truth. Democrats, citing precedent, said that it was unconstitutional to deny in-person early votes to one class of people while giving it to another, saying nothing about the soldier's right to cast an absentee ballot while overseas.

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Republicans have lost the suit, but they're keeping the myth. Yesterday, in a pretty wide-ranging town hall in Wisconsin, I heard a man ask Paul Ryan what he'd do to prevent the assault on military voters. "We've had to file a lawsuit" to fix that, said Ryan. It was a reference to another campaign suit, one that had nothing to do with early voting. But the idea that Democrats are blocking the votes of soldiers dates back to Florida 2000, too, when Republicans demanded that late military ballots be counted, above the requirements of the law. The great Umbrage Wars have many fronts. The Battle of Hey Those Guys Are Trying to Steal Our Votes is the most consequential.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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