Obama, Democrats suing to block military voting in Ohio? Update: No

posted at 11:21 am on August 3, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Well … maybe, but that depends on what remedy the lawsuit demands.  The DNC, Ohio Democrats, and the campaign for Barack Obama’s re-election have indeed filed a lawsuit in Ohio over an exception for early voting for members of the military and civilians overseas, claiming it sets up an unconstitutionally “disparate” treatment from other voters.  But does that mean eliminating the exception altogether, or extending it to everyone?

Fifteen military groups are opposing a federal lawsuit in Ohio brought by President Barack Obama’s campaign because they say it could threaten voter protections afforded to service members, such as the extended time they have to cast a ballot.

Obama’s campaign and Democrats filed the lawsuit last month against Ohio’s top elections official in a dispute over the battleground state’s law that restricts early, in-person voting during the final three days before Election Day.

The campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the Ohio Democratic Party contend the law unfairly ends in-person voting for most Ohioans three days earlier than it does for military and overseas voters.

Attorneys for the Democrats argue such “disparate” treatment is unconstitutional, and all voters should be able to vote on those days.

Breitbart’s Mike Flynn and these military groups assume that the lawsuits intend to restrict access to the military to the Friday deadline, the same as everyone else in Ohio:

On July 17th, the Obama for America Campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and the Ohio Democratic Party filed suit in OH to strike down part of that state’s law governing voting by members of the military. Their suit said that part of the law is “arbitrary” with “no discernible rational basis.”

Currently, Ohio allows the public to vote early in-person up until the Friday before the election. Members of the military are given three extra days to do so. While the Democrats may see this as “arbitrary” and having “no discernible rational basis,” I think it is entirely reasonable given the demands on servicemen and women’s time and their obligations to their sworn duty. …

I think it’s unconscionable that we as a nation wouldn’t make it as easy as possible for members of the military to vote. They arguably have more right to vote than the rest of us, since it is their service and sacrifice that ensures we have the right to vote in the first place.

But is the remedy sought by Democrats to force members of the military to adhere to the Friday deadline, or to eliminate the deadline altogether?  Neither the KTVU nor the Bloomberg reports make it clear what remedy the plaintiffs seek — and that’s really the crux of the issue here.

Prior to changes in the law passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature and by Governor John Kasich, everyone could submit an early ballot in person or by mail all the way through Monday, but access over the weekend for in-person voting was inconsistent in Ohio’s 88 counties.  The counties would have to pay overtime over these weekends to keep offices open, which is probably why some didn’t do so.  The new law restricted early voting to the Friday before the election, but left an exception for military members to cast votes in person through Monday.

The question then becomes this: why not let everyone cast votes on Monday, too?  What state interest is being served by having all the facilities for early voting open on Monday but only limiting access to them for those in the armed service?  It’s certainly nice to give troops a perk, but if the polling booths are open, why restrict it at all?  It’s a fair question, especially if the remedy sought is to extend that Monday deadline for everyone.

However, it’s a big mistake for Team Obama and the DNC to have gotten involved in the suit.  No matter how reasonable the issue might be, it still looks like they’re objecting to an accommodation for military voting.  If the state Democratic Party wanted to file the lawsuit, why not let them take all of the political flak for it?

Update: Like I said, the likely remedy proposed would be to remove the Friday deadline for everyone — and that’s exactly what the plaintiffs are proposing.  Gabriel Malor forwarded me a link to the brief, and the relevant language within it:

WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs request of this Court the following equitable relief:…

B. A preliminary and permanent order prohibiting the Defendants, their respective agents, servants, employees, attorneys, successors, and all persons acting in concert with each or any of them, 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;

So no, they aren’t trying to block military members from getting to the polls, but arguing that since the polls will be open anyway, everyone else should have access to them as well.  A couple of commenters think this will be a “logistical nightmare,” but the logistics aren’t really that scaleable.  Having the polls open for a few would be the same as having them open for many.  There may need to be  few more election judges, but those positions are voluntary anyway.


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