COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) – President Obama’s campaign and the Democratic Party sued Ohio, claiming restrictions on early voting the Legislature enacted in 2011 could disenfranchise “tens of thousands of citizens.”
Obama for America, the Democratic National Committee and the Ohio Democratic Party claim in Federal Court that “Ohio Election Law, as currently enacted by the State of Ohio and administered by defendant Ohio Secretary of State, arbitrarily eliminates early voting during the three days prior to Election Day for most Ohio voters, a right previously available to all Ohio voters.”
Ninety-three thousand Ohioans voted early in the 3 days before the election in 2008, the plaintiffs say. They sued Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine.
Ohio is an important swing state, with 18 electoral votes. The most recent Quinnipiac poll give President Obama a 9 percentage point lead over Mitt Romney, while the most recent Rasmussen Report poll shows Romney 2 percentage points ahead.
The Democrats claim that Ohio’s new law unconstitutionally gives members of the armed services – who tend to vote Republican – more time to vote early than civilians.
Under its new law, Ohio will allow “voters using the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter Act (‘UOCAVA’) [to] vote early in-person at a board of elections office up through the Monday before Election Day, while non-UOCAVA voters can vote early in-person at a board of elections office … only up until 6 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day,” the complaint states.
It adds: “This inequitable approach to early voting will have a significant impact on voters. Between 2005 and 2011, Ohio successfully administered an early-voting system that included in-person voting in the three days prior to Election Day. This early voting increased participation among voters, including those for whom work or family obligations make it difficult to vote on Election Day, and reduced the congestion that caused such severe waits during the 2004 presidential election in Ohio that some citizens were effectively denied the right to vote.”
Secretary of State Husted denied several counties’ requests to reinstate equal early voting, and “in both the Senate and the House, Democrat-sponsored amendments to return voting to the status quo … which would extend early voting through the three days prior to Election Day for all eligible Ohio voters … were voted down by the Republican-controlled majority in both chambers,” the complaint states.
“As a result of the confused state of the Ohio election law on early voting, plaintiffs will be forced to spend considerable resources educating their members and supporters about the early voting deadlines and encouraging them to vote.”
The plaintiffs seek an injunction preventing enforcement of the sections of House Bill 224 and Senate Bill 295 that alter the deadline for in-person early voting.
Their lead counsel is Donald McTigue, with McTigue and McGinnis.