It doesn’t take much to start a political spat in Ohio, where jockeying for every presidential vote is practically blood sport. The latest pits President Barack Obama’s campaign against groups representing military voters, an uncomfortable place for the commander in chief. At issue is the legality of an Ohio law cutting three days from the early-voting period for everyone, except members of the armed forces and Ohioans living overseas. The dispute reached federal court Wednesday, thanks to what the Obama campaign describes as its first lawsuit anywhere in the nation for the 2012 election. U.S. District Judge Peter Economus in Columbus listened to arguments from both sides but issued no decision. He gave no time frame for a decision, saying only that he would take the matter under advisement. Put simply, both political parties see looser rules for early voting as an advantage for Obama because they might encourage minorities, young people and other harder-to-reach voters to cast a ballot. Military votes are thought to lean Republican.
As state lawmakers debated changes to election laws, the Ohio Association of Election Officials endorsed the idea of cutting the three final early-voting days, those just before Election Day, contending they needed the extra time over the weekend to prepare for Tuesday voting. Democrats say it smacks of political manipulation to restrict in-person voting for most people while giving service members extra time to vote, even if they are not stationed abroad. They want the three days restored for everyone. “Ohio has arbitrarily decided to turn most, but not all, voters away from open in-person voting locations for no reason at all,” attorneys for the Obama campaign wrote in court filings.