This post was updated on August 6, 2012.
In a blatant attempt to mislead Americans, Mitt Romney is falsely accusing the Obama campaign of trying to restrict military voting in Ohio. In fact, the opposite is true: The Obama campaign filed a lawsuit to make sure every Ohioan has early voting rights, including military members and their families.
What happened to early voting in Ohio?
In the 2008 presidential election, more than 93,000 Ohioans utilized early voting in the three days before the election.
Earlier this year, Ohio’s GOP-controlled legislature passed an election reform law that cut off early voting three days before the election.
More than 300,000 Ohioans signed a petition to secure a referendum on the November 6th ballot in order to repeal this law. Rather than face the referendum, the legislature, at the urging of Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, decided to repeal the law.
However, “in an unusual turn of events,” Ohio Republicans managed to keep a technical provision of the bill that shortens the early voting process and eliminates the last three days of early voting for all citizens except military personnel and their families.
What does that mean for voters?
In addition to reducing Ohioans’ access to the polls, the legislature created inequality between military voters who can cast early ballots in person through the day before the election and all other voters who only have until 6 p.m. on the Friday before the election to vote in-person absentee.
Why is there a lawsuit?
These restrictions are a violation of the equal protection guarantees in the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit seeks to make sure that all Ohioans, including military members and their families, can exercise their right to vote early. “This lawsuit seeks to treat all Ohio citizens equally under the law,” said Obama for America attorney Bob Bauer. “We want to restore the right of all to vote before Election Day.”
What does Romney’s position mean for Ohio’s voting veterans?
Romney supports the Ohio GOP’s attempt to eliminate early voting access during the three days before Election Day for all Ohioans except active military personnel and their families. As two-tour Iraq veteran and Vote Vets Chairman Jon Soltz points out, that means Romney supports restricting early voting rights for more than 900,000 Ohio veterans. The law Romney supports only allows voters covered by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter Act (UOCAVA) to vote early. But once servicemembers leave the military, they are no longer covered by UOCAVA and therefore—under Ohio’s law—would lose their access to early voting in the three days before Election Day, alongside millions of other Ohio voters. “In short, Mitt Romney supports efforts to make voting more difficult for the very people who have put their lives on the line,” Soltz notes.
The facts show that Romney’s claim about restricting military voting is a blatant distortion. The purpose of the lawsuit is to ensure that every Ohioan—including military voters—has the right to make their voices heard at the polls.