Mitt Romney and his staff are accusing President Barack Obama of threatening the ability of military personnel to vote early in Ohio following the administration's decision to sue the state over new early voting laws.
The Democratic lawsuit aims to restore early voting rights for all Ohio voters, but Republicans are crying foul.
"We disagree with the basic premise that it is 'arbitrary' and unconstitutional to give three extra days of in-person early voting to military voters and their families, and believe it is a dangerous and offensive argument for President Obama and the DNC [Democratic National Committee] to make," Katie Biber, general counsel for the Romney campaign wrote in a memo issued Sunday. "It is despicable for the Obama campaign to challenge Ohio's lawful decision."
The memo follows comments issued by Romney on Saturday denouncing the Obama administration's actions. "President Obama's lawsuit claiming it is unconstitutional for Ohio to allow servicemen and women extended early voting privileges during the state's early voting period is an outrage," Romney said in a statement in which he pledged to stand with the 15 military groups defending the state law.
But Obama staffers say the Romney campaign is "completely false and misleading" in its characterizations.
"What that lawsuit calls for is not to deprive the military of the right to vote on the final weekend of the campaign—of course they should have that right," Obama's top campaign adviser David Axelrod told host Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday." "What that suit is about is whether the rest of Ohio should have that same right. And I think it's shameful that Gov. Romney would hide behind our servicemen and women to try and win a lawsuit to try to deprive other Ohioans of the right to vote."
Wallace noted that 15 military groups oppose the lawsuit, including the National Guard Association. But Axelrod suggested they are misinformed. "They need to look at the lawsuit and they need to know that that lawsuit stands up for the right of military service people to vote early but it wants that right for everybody in Ohio," Axelrod said. He then accused Republicans of trying to shrink voting participation.
The Obama campaign on Sunday emailed reporters with multiple headlines covering the back and forth over Ohio's law under the headline: "SNAPSHOT: Mitt Romney's False Claims About Early Voting for Military Service Members in Ohio."
Obama for America, the DNC and the Ohio Democratic Party filed a lawsuit on July 17 in U.S. District Court against the Ohio secretary of state over a new state law Democrats argue illegally deprives nonmilitary voters of early voting privileges. The lawsuit seeks to restore early voting rights for all Ohioans.
"Ohio election law, as currently enacted by the State of Ohio and administered by Defendant Ohio Secretary of State, arbitrarily eliminates early voting during the three days prior to Election Day for most Ohio voters, a right previously available to all Ohio voters," the lawsuit states.
[View the lawsuit here via the Election Law Blog (pdf).]
The Republican-sponsored law ends early in-person voting for nonmembers of the military three days prior to Election Day this November, eliminating early voting on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday leading up to Nov. 6.
Romney's campaign, select military groups defending Ohio's law and others say that special consideration and flexibility for military voters is wholly constitutional and helps secure the right to vote for the military amid the added challenges they face.
Ohio is a key swing state Obama narrowly carried in 2008 by 4 percentage points, or 207,000 votes. The Democratic lawsuit states that in 2008, 93,000 voters in Ohio took advantage of in-person early voting in the three days leading up to the election.