Under current Ohio law, the period during which voters can cast their ballot early ends three days before the election. However, the law has an exception for members of the military. They are allowed to vote early right up until election day.
The Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee have filed a lawsuit to overturn this law. They argue 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. In court papers, Team Obama repeatedly asserts that there is no good reason to give special flexibility to military voters.
Fifteen Ohio military groups have intervened in the lawsuit to defend the Ohio legislature’s decision to give special consideration to military members. They argue that there are valid reasons for the consideration, such as special logistical challenges faced by military personnel. And they call Obama’s position that military members should not have extra flexibility “offensive.”
Team Romney is attempting to gain political mileage from the Obama campaign’s legal position. However, Obama’s spokesmen, including David Axelrod, defend that position on the grounds that they are not attempting to deny military members the extra three days. Rather, they want to restore prior Ohio law, under which all voters could vote on those days, not just military members. And they complain that the Romney campaign is misrepresenting the Democrats’ position.
But, as noted, Team Obama’s legal position is clear from its court papers — it doesn’t believe that there is anything that justifies giving military members extra fleixibility when it comes to voting. Indeed, it finds the contrary, pro-military view so weak as to render unconstitutional the special consideration granted to military members.
Not surprisingly, it is not just Team Romney that takes exception to this position. As noted, 15 Ohio military groups are offended.
Moreover, there was a valid reason for the Ohio legislature to amend the old law that gave everyone the extra days. According to Ohio’s Secretary of State Jon Husted, the old law did not create consistent early voting rights across the state because most local jurisdictions decided to close for the weekend. Husted notes that the Dems did not sue when 6 counties had weekend voting and extended hours while 82 counties did not.
Clearly, then, the Democrats’ concern is not equal access to voting for all Ohio voters. It was only when military members became the beneficiary of extra access that the Democrats found the system arbitrary.
If this opportunistic position ends up injuring Obama’s standing with pro-military voters, he has no valid complaint.
UPDATE: On Fox News Sunday, David Axelrod disavowed the Obama campaign’s legal position in this matter:
WALLACE: “Lightning round, that means quick. Your campaign is suing the state of Ohio for giving members of the military extra time to vote early, to the Monday before the election while other voters are going to have only until Friday. You don’t think that members of the military who are serving this country deserve special consideration to vote?”
AXELROD: “I absolutely do.”
But that’s not what his campaign is saying in court.