Ohio secretary of state: Why is the Obama campaign only suing us?
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said on Thursday that a federal lawsuit filed against him by President Obama’s campaign and other Democrats is “misguided” and will lead to “confusion and the undermining of confidence in the election system.”
The Obama campaign and the Ohio and national Democratic parties on Tuesday filed the lawsuit against Husted and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, both Republicans, seeking to reinstate in-person absentee voting for all Ohioans during the three days preceding November’s voting contest. Military voters and their families are exempt from the restriction, a distinction the campaign argues is unconstitutional.
“This lawsuit seeks to treat all Ohio citizens equally under the law,” said Bob Bauer, an attorney for Obama for America.
Husted would not comment on the political calculus behind the lawsuit but asked rhetorically: “Why isn’t it a problem in the 49 other states where they do the same kinds of things?”
Husted said there is no undue burden on Ohioans casting ballots and said the change, which was enacted last year, was made to synchronize the voting windows across all Ohio counties. Previously in Ohio, the local elections boards decided which days to stay open prior to a voting contest.
“Any Ohioan can start voting in person starting 35 days out before the election and for the first time ever we are sending every registered voter in the state an absentee ballot application in early September,” Husted told Reuters. “We are doing a lot of things to expand opportunities [to vote] while at the same time protecting the integrity of the system. You need those last few days for the board of elections to synchronize the voting file so you know people only voted once.”
A senior Democratic official in Ohio called the ban voter suppression but rejected the idea that the lawsuit is meant to bolster the Obama campaign’s “72-hour strategy,” which was key to Obama’s turnout operation four years ago, when he won Ohio by 4 percentage points.
In 2008, Democrats bussed voters to polling sites, and on the weekend before Election Day, long lines formed at the Board of Elections building in the Democratic stronghold of Cuyahoga County, as described in The Plain Dealer, a Cleveland newspaper.
“It is essential for Ohio voters to have access to polls,” said the senior Democratic official who declined to be named. “What the Republicans have done in Ohio has left one of the most damaging portions of their voter disenfranchisement scheme on the books. It has made it tougher to vote. It has set up different standards, time restrictions, and deadlines for voters.”
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern argued that the three days are needed for voters of all stripes, noting that 30 percent of all votes were cast early in 2008, with nearly 93,000 people voting during the final three days before Election Day.
Husted, who could not confirm Redfern’s figures, said that if the law were to be struck down, it would “revert back to the old system where some counties could be open and some counties would not be open. So you really have an equal protection issue at that point in terms of equal access to the ballot within the state of Ohio among the average Ohio voter.”