The Romney campaign doubled down on its opposition to an Obama campaign lawsuit over early voting rights in Ohio Sunday. After initially falsely accusing the Obama campaign of trying to keep members of the military from voting, the campaign on Sunday contended that Obama opposes special treatment for service members.
In a memo released Sunday afternoon, Katie Biber, general counsel for the Romney campaign, framed the lawsuit as the Obama campaign’s attempt to deny service members any special treatment. “It is not only constitutional, but commendable that the Ohio legislature granted military voters and their families this accommodation,” Biber wrote. ”It is despicable for the Obama campaign to challenge Ohio’s lawful decision.”
But as TPM reported Saturday, the Obama campaign’s lawsuit does not seek to limit service members’ voting privileges. Instead, the goal is to restore those same privileges to all Ohio voters.
After Republicans took over the Ohio legislature in 2010, lawmakers eliminated early voting in the three days preceding the election for all Ohio voters except members of the military. With the passage of two new laws, early voting privileges were kept intact for military members under the Uniformed Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter Act while other voters were precluded from voting the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before election day.
The lawsuit, filed by Obama for America, the Democratic National Committee and the Ohio Democratic Party, contends that the new laws will cause “irreparable injury” to those voters who can no longer vote in that crucial three-day period. “Whether caused by legislative error or partisan motivation, the result of this legislative process is arbitrary and inequitable treatment of similarly situated Ohio voters with respect to in-person early voting,” the complaint reads.
Despite its intention, the lawsuit has some military groups worried that the result of the suit could be to limit the early voting rights of those in the military rather than expand those rights, and the Romney campaign is citing those groups as part of their attack on the lawsuit.
“Last week, respected military groups intervened in the Obama campaign’s lawsuit,” Biber wrote in the memo. “They argue that it is absolutely constitutional to give military voters special flexibility in voting, and that it is offensive for the Commander-in-Chief’s political campaign to argue otherwise. They correctly point out that there is good reason to grant military voters special flexibility…”
The Obama campaign’s complaint argues that the three days prior to Election Day early days are crucial for making the voting process in Ohio fair and should be open to all voters. In 2008, approximately 93,000 Ohioans took advantage of early voting in the three days before the election, according to the complaint. Early voting was implemented in Ohio after chaos at voting locations during the 2004 presidential election prohibited thousands of voters not to cast a ballot.
In response to the initial charge from Romney, the Obama campaign decried the attacks on the Sunday.
“The way frankly Governor Romney has stated it is completely false and misleading,” David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the Obama campaign, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “That suit is about whether the rest of Ohio should have the same right. And I think it’s shameful that Governor Romney would hide behind our servicemen and women to try and win a lawsuit to deprive other Ohioans, deprive other Ohioans of the right to vote.”
Axelrod also contended that military families do deserve special treatment — a privilege some military groups and the Romney campaign say the Obama campaign opposes. “I absolutely do,” he said.
Axelrod expanded his critique to the entire Republican Party: “I don’t understand what it is in the Republican Party that they want to keep shrinking participation in our election?”
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.