President Barack Obama’s re-election organization told a U.S. judge that while it backs intervention by 15 fraternal military groups in its lawsuit challenging a disparity in Ohio’s in-person early voting time laws, it maintains that all Ohio voters should be able to cast those ballots in the three days immediately before Election Day.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Jon Husted, in papers filed today with U.S. District Judge Peter Economus in Columbus, also supported the military groups’ Aug. 1 petition to intervene while defending as necessary the law giving armed forces members and certain overseas voters three more early voting days than other Ohioans.
“State and federal law has always treated military and overseas voters differently than any other voters” DeWine and Husted said in today’s filing.
Ohio, which has 18 electoral votes, has been a bellwether in U.S. politics and no Republican has been elected president without a victory there. Obama, a Democrat, won the state in 2008 with 51.5 percent of the vote.
Ohio had a single early voting period for all voters prior to the passage of legislation signed by Republican Governor John Kasich in 2011 and 2012.
Arguing the disparity is unconstitutional, the Obama for America organization is seeking a court order nullifying those parts of Ohio law that created the staggered deadlines.
While the Obama campaign said it supports the military groups’ bid to participate in the case, it questioned why all Ohio voters weren’t afforded an equal amount of early voting time.
“The question before the court is whether, in the circumstances of this case, the state of Ohio may arbitrarily and without justification withdraw from all other Ohio eligible voters the same right they previously had to vote the weekend and Monday before Election Day,” the campaign said in its Aug. 3 filing.
Economus has scheduled a hearing for Aug. 15.
“It is both laudable and constitutionally appropriate for the state to do everything in its power to facilitate voting by military personnel in any form,” the National Guard Association of the U.S. and other groups said in their Aug. 1 intervention request.
Husted, in a Bloomberg Businessweek interview today, called the Obama for America lawsuit “silly.”
The curb on early voting for a majority of Ohioans is needed to allow local election boards to synchronize the early balloting records with those at 9,800 polling places to prevent people from voting twice, said Husted.
“There’s a balance we have to strike between access and accuracy,” he said.
The case is Obama for America v. Husted , 12-cv-636, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio (Columbus).