If active military members are allowed to vote on the three days prior to Election Day, then everyone should have that right, Democrats argued in federal court this morning. But those representing some military groups and two of the state’s top Republican officials say the law already treats military voters differently, and having different cut-off dates for in-person early voting is justifiable. William Consovoy, an attorney representing Secretary of State Jon Husted, noted, for example, that military members get their absentee ballots earlier than the rest of Ohioans. “There is an easily rational basis for providing special accommodations for the military,” Consovoy said. “And that is all that is required.” Democratic lawyers, including those from the Obama campaign, slogged it out for nearly 90 minutes with Republican counsel over whether it’s constitutional for the state to allow military voters to cast in-person ballots on the Saturday through Monday before Election Day, when no one else can do so. In recent elections, all Ohioans could vote early on those three days, and Democrats estimate 93,000 cast in an in-person ballot on those days in the 2008 presidential election.
U.S. District Court Judge Peter C. Economus heard the arguments and will issue a ruling on whether to allow all Ohioans to cast in-person votes on those three days. “For the first time, the vast majority of Ohio voters will come fully eligible to vote to an open polling place and find that they cannot vote,” said Robert F. Bauer, an attorney representing the Obama campaign. “The magnitude of that injury is apparent.”
But Economus, an appointee of President Bill Clinton , interrupted: “It’s not that they cannot vote. There are so many other options, and Ohio is probably one of the most liberal states in the country in regard to voting rights.” Bauer replied: “I think it is a bedrock principle that when the polls are open, they’re open to all.”