When I read stories this weekend that said the Obama campaign was suing to restrict the voting rights of military in Ohio, my blood got boiling. Of course, Think Progress has already documented that story, inflamed by the Romney campaign, is patently false. In fact, the Obama campaign was suing to block an Ohio law which restricts a very successful early voting program in the state. The President’s campaign was trying to keep expanded voting rights in place for everyone, military included. So, why am I still so disturbed?
Because Mitt Romney, by supporting the Ohio law that would do away with three days of early voting for all but those covered under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter Act (‘UOCAVA’), is supporting the restriction of voting rights for as many as 913,000 Ohio veterans. This includes military retirees with over 20 years of service and multiple deployments. In short, Mitt Romney supports efforts to make voting more difficult for the very people who have put their lives on the line after swearing an oath to uphold our Constitution and democracy.
Once you leave the military, you are no longer covered by UOCAVA. Your voting rights are the same as any civilian. That means the early voting law which Mitt Romney wants to undo, provided hundreds of thousands of Ohio veterans with more of an opportunity to vote. By all accounts, Ohio voters liked and used the early voting law. In 2008, nearly one-third of all ballots was cast under the early voting measures, surely many of them veterans.
Interestingly, the press reported that 15 military and veterans’ groups supported Romney’s position. Yet on Friday, the Obama Campaign actually signed a brief to the court that backed the petition of those groups – welcoming them into the case, because the Obama campaign says it wants to ensure that military voters aren’t kept from early voting. Now that we know the truth, I hope those groups will come out and fully support the President’s campaign, in court. Because if they don’t, the change in law will hurt so many who have served in uniform.
So, how is the law about to change? Under the previous statute, Ohioans were allowed to vote early, all the way up to election day. Under the new law that the Obama campaign is seeking to block, almost all Ohioans will not be able to vote early starting three days before the election – doing away with weekend voting, which was the easiest for those with a full time job, or multiple jobs.
For veterans, most of whom have full-time work, often in jobs they can’t leave during the day, that lessens their ability to vote.
We’ve already seen what a non-early-voting Ohio looks like. We saw it in 2004, when in many polling places had extremely long lines (especially in urban areas), and polling places were shut down before everyone in line had a chance to vote. Non-early voting, quite literally, resulted in the disenfranchisement of voters. That’s what Mitt Romney wants to go back to. That’s what he wants to subject nearly a million Ohio veterans to, after they wore the uniform, and swore their lives to uphold our Constitution, including the right to vote.
My question for Mitt Romney is simple: “Why won’t you join the Obama lawsuit in Ohio, and protect our veterans’ right to vote?”
This post has been updated to more precisely reflect the views of the 15 military groups seeking to intervene in the case.