As President Obama visits Ohio, his army of campaign volunteers there is engaged in a “make-or-break” fight to roll back Republican-imposed voting restrictions they say will limit critical support for the president ahead of Election Day 2012.
A new law, signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich in July, would shorten by two weeks the window for early voting by mail and in-person, eliminate early voting the three days before the election, and cease automatic mailing of absentee ballots to all registered voters in the state’s largest counties, among other measures.
Democrats and Obama relied heavily on the extended early voting period to turn out support in 2008 and 2010. They are now fighting to save the system with a statewide petition campaign, driven largely by Obama’s grassroots volunteers.
If they reach more than 231,300 signatures by the end of the month, the new law will remain on hold through the 2012 election, giving Obama an advantage headed into the campaign and allowing voters a chance to weigh in directly through a referendum.
If they don’t get the signatures by Sept. 29, the law will immediately take effect, potentially hampering Democrats’ efforts to turn out their vote.
“We’re ahead of where we need to be,” said Brian Rothenberg, who’s leading the coalition of progressive groups fighting the change, “but it is very critical.”
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“Reducing early voting to three weeks will have a major impact,” he said. “Remember, the current system was put in place after 2004 when we had all the long lines. Some people waited over 10 hours to vote.”