AKRON, Ohio –Â More than 1.7 million Ohioans voted before Election Day in the 2008 presidential election – about 30 percent of all ballots cast.
And nearly 100,000 of them voted in-person in the final three days before the November election.
Noting the significance of those numbers, President Barack Obama’s campaign filed a federal lawsuit in Columbus on Wednesday, seeking to restore the three days of early voting prior to Election Day that the GOP-controlled Ohio Legislature eliminated earlier this year.
The suit was the first legal action Obama’s campaign has filed in this election.
“This lawsuit seeks to treat all Ohio citizens equally under the law,” Bob Bauer, the attorney for Obama for America, the president’s campaign committee, said during a conference call with reporters. “We want to restore the right of all to vote before Election Day.”
The campaign says changes the Ohio Legislature made created inequality among military and overseas voters, who can cast early ballots through the day before the election, and all other voters, who have until 6 p.m. on the Friday before the election to vote in-person absentee. This, the campaign contends, is a violation of the equal protection provision of the U.S. Constitution.
“Without early voting in these last three days before Election Day, tens of thousands of citizens who would have otherwise exercised their right to vote during this time period, including the plaintiffs’ members and supporters, may not be able to participate in future elections at all,” the campaign’s complaint states.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who is named in the lawsuit, said in a phone interview Tuesday his office has tried to bring about uniformity among the counties, including sending out absentee ballot applications to all voters before the general election this year and by ruling that boards may allow in-person early voting only during normal hours, rather than for the extended hours that were offered in previous elections in certain counties.
Husted said if the campaign’s suit were successful, it would open the way for disparity among the counties, with some potentially pushing to be open for extended hours on the weekend and the day before the election and others choosing not to.
“If this lawsuit were to prevail, we would be back to a system that allows voters in one county to be treated different from another county,” he said. “I embrace the idea of equal protection and treating the voters the same.”
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