Voters in Ohio are casting ballots in the general election this weekend as a result of a complaint filed by the Obama campaign that allows Ohioans to vote on November 3, 4, and 5. This privilege, previously given to Ohio military voters exclusively under the 1986 Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), was expanded to all Ohio voters this year.
Ohio Secretary of State Republican Jon Husted attempted to block the early weekend voting by requesting the U.S. Supreme Court in mid-October to review the appeals court ruling, but the high court rejected Husted’s application for a stay on the lower court’s ruling. Early voting in Ohio would continue through the weekend up until election day.
The Heritage Foundation’s Hans Von Spakovsky wrote of the Obama camp’s lawsuit:
The essence of the Obama campaign’s complaint is that providing any extra time to such a special class of voters is ‘arbitrary and capricious’ and therefore a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. The lawsuit demands that all other voters be given the same extension.
UOCAVA is a federal law passed in 1986 that guarantees the right of members of the military and overseas American civilians to vote by absentee ballot in federal elections. It was passed because of the horrendously high disenfranchisement rate of military voters, which is caused by the unpredictability of military life and military deployments.
UOCAVA was amended in 2009 to require states to mail out requested absentee ballots to members of the military at least 45 days prior to election day because of the long delays in overseas mail service, particularly in war zones like Afghanistan.
Regular voters have the ability to vote by absentee ballot in all states, and many also allow in-person early voting prior to election day. But civilian voters in the continental U.S. simply do not have the unforeseen problems faced by military voters. Many members of the military don’t know where they will be a week from now, let alone three or four months from now. This is especially true for those services running high-tempo operations—they are here today and gone tomorrow. A lot of military personnel who are deployed may come home for some brief R&R and having those few extra days before the election—especially over the weekend—may make a big difference in their ability to vote.
Contrary to the claims being made by the Obama re-election campaign, there is no comparison between the average resident of Ohio who knows he may be on a business trip on election day, and therefore should vote by absentee ballot or vote early, and a Marine who is suddenly given orders to deploy to Helmand province or is ordered on a field exercise with little advance notice.
USA Today reported in August:
That lawsuit prompted claims by Mitt Romney and aides that the Obama campaign is targeting military voters — a false claim, Obama’s team quickly responded.
Said Romney in a statement: “President Obama’s lawsuit claiming it is unconstitutional for Ohio to allow servicemen and women extended early voting privileges during the state’s early voting period is an outrage.”
Rob Diamond, director of veterans and military family voting for the Obama campaign, said Romney is fabricating his claim: “The Obama campaign filed a lawsuit to make sure every Ohioan, including military members and their families, has early voting rights over the last weekend prior to the election.”
Obama political adviser David Axelrod, appearing on Fox News Sunday, said Romney’s claims are “false and misleading,” and that the lawsuit is about “whether the rest of Ohio should have the same right” to early voting as members of the military.
“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 of the right to vote,” Axelrod said.
I spoke with Ohio voters waiting to cast their ballots at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections this weekend. It appears many like the idea of voting on the weekend, because they would rather not wait in a long line to vote on a work day.
“We wanted to beat the crowds the day of, and my sister works at nights, so I dragged her out to make sure that she would get out and vote,” Shaker Heights resident Cheryl Benford told me on Saturday as she stood in line waiting to vote.
“We really appreciate Saturday voting. We work during the week and some of us work six and seven days a week, so we want to be able to vote when we can and not at one specific time,” she added.
Cleveland’s Laron Anderson agreed saying, “I work during the week, so I thought it would just be easier to come out during the day, just in case there were long lines just like this. I’m free to go to work like I normally would.”
“I have to work. My power is out, so I could if I wanted to [have voted on Tuesday]. But I figured I’d just get it out of the way early,” Johnathan Brown of Bay Village admitted.
According to the U.S. Constitution, every four years, election day is to be held on the first Tuesday of November. Early voting in Ohio and 33 other states have essentially worked around that section in the constitution, so election day in November is actually the last day to vote in a 30 day time span as opposed to the only day to vote during the year.
“This is a very cumbersome process, compared to other states. I’ve lived in Texas. I’ve lived Arkansas. It’s much easier to vote in other states,” Mr. Brown said.
As convenient as voting on a Saturday and Sunday is, if extended weekend voting or even the 30-day early voting was not available to Ohioans or other states, would voters still find a way to get to the polls, on the official election day?
“Yes. [I would come down here to vote on Tuesday]. I would definitely come here. I’m glad there is early voting here in Ohio,” said Mary (last name not given) of Cleveland. Mary said that it “would be sad” if early voting and weekend voting days did not exist.
“Too much has happened—especially with the history of civil rights. It wouldn’t matter when it was. If I couldn’t do early voting, I would still vote,” said Mary. “That’s irrelevant. I would still vote, but early voting is good.”
Ms. Benford, pointing out the importance of this year’s election said, “We would have found a way, but this way we can earn a living and vote.”
Mr. Anderson also noted he was concerned about being “disenfranchised” if he did not vote early.
“I wait to the last minute, sometimes a lot of things come up. You hear a lot of previous elections a lot people get disenfranchised and things like that,” he explained. “I just wanted to make sure that I get my vote counted. I wanted to come down early and get it done.”