The heavy-handed court ruling probably gives the Obama campaign an edge in the vitally important battleground state.
Acceding to a lawsuit from the Obama campaign, part-time, semi-retired liberal judge Peter C. Economus last week voided provisions of an election reform law enacted in Ohio last year that gave military personnel extra time to vote in person.
Although the U.S. Constitution says nothing about early voting –in-person or otherwise– Economus ruled that Ohio’s new early voting legislation violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by giving military personnel an extra three days of in-person early voting. This amounts to a denial of non-soldiers’ “right to participate equally” in elections, wrote Economus, who was named to the post by President Clinton in 1995.
In 2011 Ohio enacted election reforms aimed at reducing long lines and giving poll workers an extra few days to update voter rolls. The new law eliminated in-person early voting on the weekend before Election Day and made the in-person early voting period uniform throughout the state.
The Ohio legislation removed Democrats’ unfair urban voting advantage. This standardization of early in-person voting days throughout Ohio had the effect of taking away three days for early in-person voting before Election Day that voters in only six, densely populated, Obama-leaning counties, had enjoyed.
Instead of all voters in those six Democratic counties being allowed to vote in the final days before Election Day, the new Ohio law allowed only the relatively few registered voters covered by the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter Act to vote early in-person up until the day before Election Day.
According to conservative commentator Mark Hyman, the Obama campaign’s lawsuit has never been about equal access to the polls. It was calculated to “give a voting advantage to Obama strongholds” in a vote-rich swing state.
In the 2008 general election, in-person early voting was permitted in the five weeks leading up to Election Day. Of Ohio’s 88 counties, 66 voted for Republican John McCain. The other 22 counties voted for Barack Obama.
Only six counties in the state opened their polling places the weekend before Election Day. All six were heavily populated and were carried by Obama. Those counties were Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Lucas, Montgomery and Summit within whose boundaries are the cities of Cleveland, Columbus,Cincinnati, Toledo, Dayton, and Akron, respectively, Hyman notes.
“Ohio is a swing state,” notes Hyman. “Whatever happens there affects us all.”
Commenting on the court decision, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the federal government should not micromanage elections at the state level. “We believe states should have some ability to set powers of election,” he said. “Unless we’re going to turn this entirely over to the federal (government) to determine Ohio voting, we have no choice but to appeal this.”
DeWine said Americans have always made special accommodations for military personnel.
“Since the time of Civil War we’ve made a distinction in this country between the availability and access for people who are in the military versus the rest of us to vote. And we made that distinction because of the unique situation people in the military are in,” DeWine said. “This (law) is not anything new.”
DeWine, a former U.S. senator, said he plans to appeal the order because “My job as attorney general is to defend the laws of the state of Ohio and to defend the right of the state of Ohio to set its own rules and its own laws.”
Former Justice Department lawyer J. Christian Adams said the ruling was “a blatantly political decision and judicial activism at its worse.”
“Disregarding precedent and upending state law, the liberal federal judge, at the stroke of a pen, increased the early voting period for a three day period across the state, imposing additional duties and an unfunded mandate on local and state election officials without any authority,” said Adams, author of Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department.
Strangely, no outside groups such as the ACLU, Demos, NAACP, or ACORN-affiliated Project Vote participated in the Ohio case alongside the three plaintiffs Obama for America, Democratic National Committee, and the Ohio Democratic Party. Not one left-wing group even filed an amicus brief.
But underscoring the importance of this issue to America’s fighting men and women a battalion of pro-soldier groups including AMVETS, Army Reserve Association, Marine Corps League, National Association for Uniformed Services, Non Commissioned Officers Association of the USA, Special Forces Association, and the U.S. Army Ranger Association Inc., all intervened as defendants in the case.
Obama’s lead counsel in the lawsuit is Robert F. Bauer of the law firm Perkins Coie. Known for his in-your-face approach to lawyering, in 2008 Bauer asked the Department of Justice to prosecute Obama critics and fine television stations for running an ad about Obama’s close personal friendship with Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers. Bauer has been instrumental in whitewashing Obama’s radical roots by filing lawsuits keeping a bewildering array of the president’s personal papers hidden away. In 2008 Bauer claimed that John McCain engaged in voter suppression merely by criticizing ACORN.
Perkins Coie is one of the Obama reelection campaign’s biggest vendors, generating just under $2.3 million in legal bills – a number that is bound to shoot up even higher as Obama’s legal warfare escalates between now and Election Day.
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