No, the Obama Campaign is not attempting to keep military voters from voting, no matter how much the Romney Campaign and their surrogates in the media and on Fox "News" are willing to shamelessly lie about it for ugly partisan purposes at the expense of electoral democracy.
The whole story appears to have begun as little more than another hoax by the Andrew Breitbart scam artists and, as always, the mainstream corporate media have fallen for it, as if it's a legitimate story. So here's what's actually going on, since the MSM seems incapable of explaining to you.
Following the disastrous, partisan and arguably criminal oversight of the 2004 Presidential Election in Ohio by then Republican Sec. of State J. Kenneth Blackwell (in any other era in our nation's history, people would have gone to jail for what happened there), when a wildly and purposefully disparate distribution of voting machines led to Election Day voting lines of anywhere from 2 to 12 hours, mostly in Democratic-leaning jurisdictions, reforms were enacted to make it easier for all voters to cast their legal vote in the Buckeye State.
After the 2004 debacle, the law was changed in 2005 to allow for any voter to vote by absentee ballot, without an excuse, including by "early in-person absentee voting" at polling places in the weeks leading up to Election Day. Hundreds of thousands of Ohio voters took advantage of this new opportunity to cast their vote, helping to radically increase turnout, including during Early and Absentee voting in subsequent years:
In the 2008 election, in the three days prior to Election Day, some 93,000 voters in the state took advantage of their ability to cast a vote over the weekend just before the Tuesday election. Many of those voters, according to a University of Akron study of Early Voting in Ohio [PDF], were voters who might have trouble voting on Election Day, because they were working that day, or were elderly and unable to wait in long lines. African American churches encouraged voters to head to the early polls after church on the Sunday before the election, during a so-called "Souls to the Polls" effort.
This, Republicans legislators in Ohio determined, had to be stopped. And so they did. Or tried to, by passing HB 194, shortening the period of early voting for all Buckeye State voters, and adding other restrictions to make it more difficult for legal voters to cast their legal vote and have it counted.
The people of Ohio then rose up against HB 194 by turning in almost 100,000 more signatures than the number required to forestall the implementation of the new voting restrictions and to place the law --- which had passed on party lines by the Republican-controlled legislature before being signed by the state's Republican Governor John Kasich --- onto the November 2012 ballot, where the people could decide whether or not they wanted the new restrictions on voting rights.
But a funny thing happened on the way to that November 2012 Referendum. The state Republicans came up with a bit of a work around, at least for active duty military voters (who, we are told, tend to vote Republican, rather than Democratic). And while the Obama Campaign and fellow Democrats are busy trying to ensure that all voters, not just active duty military voters in Ohio get to enjoy Early Voting in those three days before the Election, the Romney Campaign has continued their extraordinary record of simply lying about everything.
That's not a partisan observation. That's just a fact. And for anyone in the media to suggest otherwise, in regard to this story, amounts to little more than journalistic malpractice at very best, and, more accurately, an insidious act of blatantly cynical partisanship disguised as "journalism" at the expense of the very core of our (small "d") democratic system of governance.
Such insidious acts of blatantly cynical partisanship disguised as "journalism" is, of course, what the folks at the late con-man Andrew Breitbart's website do best...
Romney Campaign channels Andrew Breitbart
Frankly, I can't believe we even need to write this article. But, given the extraordinary breadth of horrible MSM mis-reportage on this matter --- not to mention purposely misleading Fox "News" Channel propaganda about it --- it appears we must.
It started in earnest last Thursday when Mike Flynn, the Editor of Breitbart's pretend Rightwing "news" site, Breitbart.com, posted an entirely inaccurate item with the headline "OBAMA CAMPAIGN SUES TO RESTRICT MILITARY VOTING".
The Rightwing echo chamber was off and running. Naturally, the story was quickly picked up on Fox's website without question and then their pretend "news" program, Special Report, was happy to amplify it on Friday...
By Saturday, the Romney campaign, as has become their custom, picked up the lie from Fox, and posted the following on their Facebook page over the weekend...
All of it, of course, is a lie. The very opposite of the truth. Nobody in the media would even have to read very far into the actual complaint filed by the Obama Campaign [PDF] (along with the DNC and the Ohio Democratic Party) to figure that out. It's pretty clear from the very first paragraph:
In short, the Obama camp is suing to allow all registered voters to be able to participate in Early Voting during the final three days before Election Day --- just as had been the case in all Ohio elections since the 2005 expansion of Absentee/Early Voting and before the state Republicans, in 2011, arbitrarily ended the right of all but active duty military voters to cast a vote in Ohio on those three days. (Though, it should be noted, even the Ohio Republicans had originally attempted to keep military voters from voting during that period as well. See the section below for more on that.)
The Democrats are not suing to restrict or "undermine" anybody's right to vote. They are suing to expand the right to vote for everybody, after it was taken away --- only from some (including some 900,000 military veterans in the state, as well as tens of thousands of cops and firefighters to boot) --- by a 2011 law which the voters of Ohio have already tried to overturn by placing it onto this November's ballot for a voter referendum.
That's the real story. The one that Romney and his wingnut friends are lying to you about.
You can stop reading now, unless you want to know...
How Ohio Republicans actually are attempting to 'undermine' voting rights (even those of military voters).
So, without getting too terribly deep into the weeds, here's how we got to the point where Breitbart's Flynn was willing to write a completely inaccurate post that Fox was happy to pick up and that the Romney camp was delighted to add to their historically unprecedented series of outright lies in a U.S. Presidential campaign.
In July of 2011, the Ohio Republicans, in a party line vote, passed HB 194, a law that, among other things, ended Early Voting in the last three days before Election Day. (The bill also made it illegal for poll workers to direct voters to their correct precinct, even when the correct "precinct" was just a different table within the very same polling place. Voters casting provisional ballots at the wrong table/precinct, even at the direction of poll workers, led to some 40,000 provisional ballots going uncounted in 2008, as we detailed last week.)
There was immediate push-back against HB 194, in the form of a signature gathering movement to put the law on hold, and place it on the November 2012 ballot for a voter referendum. That effort was enormously successful, resulting in more than 300,000 signatures gathered, almost 100,000 more than necessary, under Ohio law, to suspend the statute and put it up for a vote by the people.
In December of 2011, Secretary of State John Husted (R) certified the referendum for this year's ballot. Shortly thereafter, Husted, who had bucked his party before, called on his fellow Republicans to repeal the bill, given the clear public outcry against it.
While the signatures were still being gathered, however, Republican lawmakers passed another bill, HB 224, "to make technical corrections to the laws governing elections." That bill attempted to fix some dates in the election code that were overlooked in HB 194. The second bill changed the code in other places, not specified by HB 194, where the deadline for in-person Early Voting was also referenced. The code was changed to specify 6pm Friday, before Election Day, as the end of Early Voting for both active military and non-military voters.
In other words, Ohio Republicans had voted to "undermine" and "restrict" the voting rights of active military members. The very same "outrage" which the Romney Campaign and their cheerleaders at Breitbart and Fox "News" now falsely claim that Obama is trying to do.
But then, after the referendum to overturn HB 194 made it onto the ballot, Ohio Republicans took Sec. of State Husted's advice and passed yet another bill, SB 295, in May of 2012. That bill repealed the original HB 194 bill which restricted the voting rights of all Ohioans. It did not, however, repeal the second bill, HB 224, and so there remained two different places in Ohio code where the deadline for military voters was specified. In one place the deadline for in-person voting by members of the military was Friday at 6pm, in the other place it was restored to the close of polls on Election Day.
The complaint filed by the Obama Campaign and the Democrats allege that Republicans knew of the inconsistencies that would occur in the Election Code when they passed SB 295 to repeal HB 194. They cite, for example, Carrie L. Davis, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio who testified to the legislature that "Passing a straight repeal of provisions that were only in HB 194 without addressing the ‘technical changes’ made in HB 224 continues the inconsistency problem, wherein sections of the voting law conflict with one another." The suit goes on to say that, despite the warnings, "The General Assembly did not address these issues."
Moreover, the suit notes that Democratic members of the legislature had sponsored amendments "to return voting to the status quo --- as it existed prior to HB 194 --- which would extend early voting through the three days prior to Election Day for all eligible Ohio voters," but that the Republican-controlled majority voted all such amendments down.
When Husted was called upon to issue an advisory opinion to county election officials as to which of the two conflicting deadlines for military voters should be recognized, he "appropriately" (according to the Democrats' complaint) "resolved the conflict between the two in-person early voting deadlines...in favor of the more generous time period."
That's essentially where we were when Obama and the Democrats sued on July 17, 2012, to restore in-person Early Voting to all eligible Ohio voters, arguing that allowing it for only active military members is a violation of the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause. While special accommodations are made, by federal law, for overseas military voters --- laws that the Obama administration has sued successfully to enforce in some 10 different instances --- they Democrats are arguing that as long as Early Voting locations are going to be left open for active duty military voters in the state for three additional days, everyone should be allowed to vote at those same polling locations during that same period.
And then Breitbart and Fox lied about it, and Romney lied about it, and the Rightwing media has been repeating the Big Lie ever since, and the non-Rightwing media hasn't been doing much better, to tell you the truth. (Credit is due to Ed Morrisey at the right wing Hot Air blog, however, since he was very quick to point out how the claim being made by the Romney camp was simply not true.)
No doubt, the presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States --- a man who actually appears to have committed voter fraud himself --- couldn't be prouder.
For the record, Breitbart's idiot Flynn --- who started it all by falsely declaring: "Make no mistake, the Democrat [sic] lawsuit is intended to disenfranchise some unknown number of military voters" --- still hasn't bothered to correct his original post, almost a full week later. So all the dupes and stooges and suckers and pawns who read that site and watch Fox "News" are still as woefully disinformed as the day they were conned into believing that Breitbart's lackey, James O'Keefe, dressed as a pimp and caught ACORN workers creating child prostitution rings.
But don't take our word for it. Read the Obama complaint yourself [PDF].