It has been fairly widely reported that fifteen military groups have filed a “motion to intervene” in the Obama for America vs. Husted case. I posted a diary last week claiming that the Obama campaign was suing to disenfranchise military voters. Since that time there have been various comments (including in response to my diary) citing an apparently unimpeachable source: Snopes, which has apparently debunked the “myth” that the Obama campaign is seeking to restrict military voting. Their “report” is a tortured collection of snippets from the AP, the ACLU, and a few out of context sentences from the lawsuit. It concludes by citing the DNC talking points that, rather than trying to restrict military voting, they’re attempting to extend the early voting period for everyone! We’ve all heard that, right?
The Obama campaign has taken this and run with it:
“Mitt Romney and his campaign have completely fabricated a claim that the Obama campaign is trying to restrict military voting in Ohio,” said Rob Diamond, Obama’s veterans and military family vote director. “In fact, the opposite is true: The Obama campaign filed a lawsuit to make sure every Ohioan, including military members and their families, has early voting rights over the last weekend prior to the election.”
Except that what the Democrats (and Snopes and many in the media) are spinning ignores much of the background that surrounds this issue. Please refer to my original diary for a more detailed legislative history. And a disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and have no legal experience whatsoever. I’m simply reading the plain text of the legislation and the lawsuit and calling ’em as I see ’em.
The short version is that in fall of 2011 the law was that Ohio allowed early, in-person casting of ballots until the Monday before Election Day. However, Ohio law allowed individual Boards of Election to make the decision about whether or not to stay open the weekend before the election (which is outside of regular business hours). Many did, but most did not. This created a patchwork of election dates and times throughout the state and from precinct to precinct. A person could move across the street and have different voting times and dates in the next election.
When Republicans took control of the legislature in 2011 they reformed the election laws (HB 194). One aspect was to create uniformity in the early voting laws. Voting would be completed by the Friday before the election at 6 PM (or the close of business, a minor detail causing major headaches). Democrats threatened to repeal the law through a referendum and began collecting signatures to put the measure on the ballot.
During this time, the legislature passed HB 224, which explicitly gave members of the military and their families the right to vote up until election day under UOCAVA (it was actually an amendment to another bill).
Once it was clear that there would be enough signatures to get the repeal measure on the ballot, Republicans, unwilling to go through another messy ballot battle, retaliated by chucking HB 194 – they repealed it themselves (SB 295)…
Remember, HB224 would now allow the military to vote through Monday (or maybe through election day….pass the Excedrin).
What Obama for America v. Husted seeks to do is throw out the first law (HB 194) and the new law relating to the military early voting (HB224) and revert back to what we had in Ohio before the 2011 reforms:
“A preliminary and permanent order prohibiting the Defendants…from implementing or enforcing lines 863 and 864 of Sec. 3509.03 (I) in HB 224, and/or the SB 295 enactment of Ohio Revised Code § 3509.03 with the HB 224 amendments, thereby restoring in-person early voting on the three days immediately preceding Election Day for all eligible Ohio voters;”
Except that we NEVER HAD in-person early voting for all eligible Ohio voters the weekend before Election Day. Again, we only had this for select (mostly Democratic-leaning) districts. So, David Axelrod and the Obama campaign are not telling the truth when they say their only motivation is to “restore” early voting to “all” Ohio voters. And again, this lawsuit, if successful, will disenfranchise military voters, allowing fewer military voters to vote.
The fifteen military groups apparently agreed. The suit, which minces no words, says:
“The principal campaign committee of President Barack Obama, the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, is arguing before this Court that the State of Ohio has violated the U.S. Constitution by giving members of the Armed Forces—who serve under his command, and risk their lives pursuant to his orders—three extra days to participate in early voting…The Obama campaign and Democratic National Committee contend that they cannot “discern” any “legitimate justification” for giving members of the military extra time to participate in early voting…”
“…Although the relief Plaintiffs seek is an overall extension of Ohio’s early voting period, the means through which Plaintiffs are attempting to attain it—a ruling that it is arbitrary and unconstitutional to grant extra time for early voting solely to military voters and overseas citizens—is both legally inappropriate and squarely contrary to the legal interests and constitutional rights of Intervenors, their members, and the courageous men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces….
“…Members of the U.S. Armed Forces risk their lives to keep this nation safe and defend the fundamental constitutional right to vote. The Obama campaign’s and Democratic National Committee’s argument that it is arbitrary and unconstitutional to afford special consideration, flexibility, and accommodations to military voters to make it easier for them to vote in person is not only offensive, but flatly wrong as a matter of law.” [emphasis added]
Probably wasn’t a good idea for Obama to get on the wrong side of these groups representing a million military members. They continue:
“Finally, efforts to facilitate and maximize military voting should be welcomed, not viewed with constitutional suspicion. .. (recognizing that the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces “fight for the very principle that our democratic society is based [upon]—the fundamental right to vote”). For these reasons, it is hardly “arbitrary” for the State of Ohio to facilitate voting by members of the military by giving them an extra weekend to cast in-person absent ballots.”
They also make the important point that the reason for not extending voting for the entire state through Monday is this:
“Finally, the State could have recognized that the number of overseas voters who would be in a position to vote in person the weekend before Election Day was so de minimus that allowing them to do so would not burden election officials or interfere with Election Day preparations. Allowing the general public to vote throughout that weekend, in contrast, would be a substantial burden on election personnel, and risk undermining their preparations for Election Day…(noting that “approximately 93,000 Ohioans voted in the three days prior to the 2008 presidential election”).”
Here’s a little reminder of what we had to deal with in Ohio in 2008. Boards of Election were overwhelmed with thousands of unregistered voters bused in by groups like ACORN and the SEIU the day before the election. There were multiple individuals and groups prosecuted for election fraud as a result, which led to the reforms of 2011.
Members of the military have every right to be upset about what the Obama campaign is trying to do. The Ohio legislature was right to give our men and women who serve our country a few extra days to vote. There are a myriad of reasons they may need to do so and we should make every accommodation for them to get to the polls. That the Obama campaign would sue to try to skim a few extra votes on election day at the expense of our military while denigrating the important work they do is shameful.