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article imageControversy continues over Ohio's early voting laws

By Leigh Goessl     Aug 4, 2012 in Politics
Controversy in Ohio is continuing over the state's early voting laws. A question emerging this week is whether or not the Obama campaign is attempting to impede the military vote in Ohio.
Last month, the Obama campaign filed a federal lawsuit in Ohio over the state's current law that "restricts in-person early voting in the three days leading up to Election Day," reported the Associated Press (courtesy Washington Post).
New Ohio early voting laws
According to CNN, the Obama campaign initiated the lawsuit because it wants Ohio to return to 2008 laws; last year, the Republican-controlled government had made many election reforms which streamlined the early voting rules across the state.
Current Ohio state voting law is now two-tiered. It allows military voters (and civilians overseas) to vote through the Monday before the election. Other voters must cast their ballot by the preceding Friday.
The Obama campaign is claiming this treatment is unconstitutional. Previously, all counties were able to set their own early voting windows, which means each county had a different standard and window for early voting. Secretary of State Jon Husted, the state's elections chief, has supported a more uniform and consistent approach to voting.
“You need those last three days for the local (election) boards to get their records straight,” Husted told CNN last month. “Make sure their voting rolls are accurate.”
Is the Obama campaign trying to impede the military vote?
If the lawsuit succeeds and the laws are reversed, some are saying this could impede the military vote come November. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and approximately 15 military groups are angry and are seeking intervention to dismiss the lawsuit.
“Members of the U.S. Armed Forces risk their lives to keep this nation safe and defend the fundamental constitutional right to vote,” the military groups said in their request to intervene in the case, according to Bloomberg News.
“I’m just outraged by this,” DeWine told Fox News on Friday (courtesy NewsMax). “I can’t believe that the Obama campaign [and] the state Democratic Party are actually saying there’s no rational basis for a distinction between someone who is in the military voting, and somebody not in the military.
"Our whole history in this country, we’ve made a distinction between the two, recognizing the difficulties, and the unique situation that people in the military are in.”
NewsMax noted that Republicans traditionally garner the military vote. Washington Times reported a Gallup survey conducted in May 2012 showed Romney favored over Obama by veterans 58 to 34.
Lawsuit supporters want equal voting privileges
Since many voters often do not presumably vote in the beginning window of early voting, the Obama campaign argues that the early voter laws shut out voting opportunities for non-military voters.
If the Obama campaign succeeds in its lawsuit, those three extended early voting days for military members could be eliminated, however others are saying this is not exactly the case and that the story is being spun.
According to Media Matters, "in reality" the lawsuit wants all voters to be allowed to vote up until Monday, and this would not restrict military families "in any way".
“This lawsuit seeks to treat all Ohio citizens equally under the law,” Bob Bauer, the attorney for Obama for America, the president’s campaign committee, said during a conference call with reporters last month, reported the Akron Beacon Journal. “We want to restore the right of all to vote before Election Day.”
Secretary of State's Office speaks out
Maggie Osrowki, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Secretary of State told The Daily Caller there are concerns over the premise of the Obama campaign's lawsuit.
“There are plenty of opportunities for Ohioans to participate in the election,” Osrowki said. Military members are “in a different situation than all the other voters.”
Husted told the Associated Press in July, "I didn't see a lawsuit occur when six counties had weekend voting and extended hours and 82 of them didn't. I'm sympathetic to the idea that we should have consistency, because that's exactly what we've been doing on a number of fronts."
Importance of the Ohio vote
Both the Democratic and Republican campaigns consider Ohio an important state and each seeks to clinch the vote in the Buckeye State. Historically, many votes come in at the last minute, per many media reports. Many media outlets are reporting 30 percent of the total vote was via early voting in 2008; an estimated 93,000 votes were in the last three days.
Barack Obama narrowly won Ohio by a small margin in 2008, 51.5 percent. Ohio, along with its 18 electoral votes, is considered a key battleground state for 2012.
A hearing has been set for Aug. 15.
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