The Obama campaign said in a court filing Sunday that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s decision to eliminate all weekend early voting brings “the arbitrary and often indeterminate nature of the State’s actions and positions” on their opposition to early voting into “sharp focus.”
President Obama’s campaign is suing Ohio to make sure that the right to vote in-person in the three days before the election — a right the state made available only to members of the military and Americans living overseas — are available to all eligible Ohio voters, as it was in 2008. The Mitt Romney campaign had used the suit to launch a false attack on Obama, accusing him of trying to restrict military voting.
Husted has now ordered all counties to implement the same voting hours (hours which don’t include weekend voting). The Obama campaign’s legal team also accused the state of flip-flopping on whether so-called “UOCAVA voters” — those covered by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act — would be guaranteed the right to vote in the three day period before the elections.
“In short, the Secretary of State has now acted to eliminate all Saturday early voting, over the entire period of early voting, for the vast majority of voters, regardless of the intent or budgets of the County Boards,” the Obama campaign said in a court filing. “In sum, under the State’s view of the law, this access is prohibited to most; but it may be, but it is not necessarily, available to others.”
One Ohio Republican, a close advisor to Gov. John Kasich (R), is taking heat for telling a newspaper that the state “shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”
Two Democratic members of one county election board could be suspended for making a motion to allow early weekend voting in violation of Husted’s directive.
“There’s no reason in the world for him to do what he’s doing to us other than to suppress the vote,” Tom Ritchie, a member of the Montgomery Board of Elections who was temporarily suspended by Husted, told The Nation’s Ari Berman. As Berman explains, cutbacks to early voting would disproportionately disenfranchise the state’s African-American voters:
African-Americans comprise 21 percent of the population in Franklin and Montgomery counties and 28 percent in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County but accounted for 31 percent, 52 percent and 56 percent of early voters in the respective counties in 2008. (Eighty-two percent of those who voted early in Franklin County in 2008 did so on nights or weekends.)