Obama Campaign Sues Ohio Over Early Voting Limits

The Obama campaign is trying to restore early voting the weekend before election day.(Photo: Flickr)
The Obama campaign is trying to restore early voting the weekend before election day.(Photo: Flickr)

Back in 2004, Ohio’s voting process was under national scrutiny after there were long lines at polling places, causing voters to wait for up to eight hours to cast their ballots at some precincts. After that, Ohio lawmakers passed a law that, among other things, allowed Ohioans to vote in person on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before the election. Those rules were in effect in 2008.

But Ohio lawmakers, during the past couple of years, have passed new laws eliminating that three day window. There was an attempt to allow Ohio voters to vote in a referendum to repeal that law. But Ohio lawmakers took matters in their own hands and repealed the controversial bill but didn’t repeal other new laws related to voting. Backers of a new lawsuit say the way Ohio laws are written now treats voters unfairly and unequally. Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern says a new lawsuit, filed in federal court, seeks to remedy that.

“All Ohioans, all voters deserve so much more and better. Our country deserves so much more and better and that’s what this case is all about….insuring all voters, every voter, has the same access to the polls,” said Redfern.

The new federal lawsuit, filed by President Obama’s campaign, the Ohio Democratic party and the Democratic National Committee contends the laws that are currently on the books in Ohio treat military voters and their families differently than ordinary Ohioans. Don McTigue, an attorney working on behalf of the Democratic groups, explains treating the two groups differently violates federal election laws.

“The general assembly has established a deadline for one group of voters that allows them to vote three extra voters in person at the board of elections. All other voters, the general assembly has cut off on the Friday before. Whether or not this was done deliberately or whether it was a happenstance result of a tortured legislative history from all of these bills, it does not make a difference from a legal or constitutional standpoint. You have two groups of voters that do not have the same rights to vote and should,” said McTigue.

The new lawsuit seeks to bring back that three day, in person early voting period at the board of elections for every Ohio voter. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted says it’s important to remember that Ohio voters haven’t had those three days recently anyway, “This is the third election that we’ve had under these rules so there’s nothing new happening here in Ohio.”

As far as the inequity between ordinary Ohioans and military families, Husted says federal law is responsible for that.

One of the Republican lawmakers who pushed to wipe out the three day window before election day, Lou Blessing, says no voter is being disenfranchised under the current law.

“As far as preventing people from voting….my comment is you’ve got to be voting…you’ve got 30 days before the election. I’m not quite sure how that prevents anybody from voting,” maintained Blessing.

In 2008, 93,000 votes were cast in the three days before Election Day.

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