(WASHINGTON) — A new flap in the ongoing battle on voting equality began this week when Mitt Romney accused President Obama’s re-election committee of suing to restrict military voting rights in Ohio. And while Romney did not address the issue campaigning in Indiana Saturday, he called the lawsuit “an outrage” in a written statement
“The brave men and women of our military make tremendous sacrifices to protect and defend our freedoms, and we should do everything we can to protect their fundamental right to vote,” it reads. “I stand with the fifteen military groups that are defending the rights of military voters.”
Republicans say a lawsuit brought by Obama for America in July seeks to eliminate additional time for in-person early voting allotted to service members in the battleground state. Democrats, on the other hand, contend the presumptive GOP nominee is deliberately trying to distort the facts.
“Mitt Romney is falsely accusing the Obama campaign of trying to restrict military voting in Ohio,” a Friday statement said. “In fact, the opposite is true: The Obama campaign filed a lawsuit to make sure every Ohioan has early voting rights, including military members and their families.”
A series of laws passed in the past year by Ohio’s Republican state legislature and Gov. John Kasich have waived the last three days of in-person early voting before Election Day for all but members of the military. Civilians now have until Friday, Nov. 2, to cast those ballots and must arrive at the booth before 6 p.m.
Republicans faulted the extra time for civilians as too costly for local governments and prone to fraud and abuse. Meanwhile, service members were exempt from the restrictions, allowing them to vote at any time before polls close, an extra three days without restrictions.
As previously reported by ABC News, the Obama campaign sued the Buckeye State last month to block those laws from taking effect, restoring weekend voting as it was in 2008. Democrats say those last days before Nov. 6 give a crucial extra cushion for Americans who might not have had the opportunity to enter the voting booth in the days prior. If the challenge is successful, they say, military voters would not see any difference in their rights.
The Obama campaign maintains the two-tiered privilege system violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. In most states, men and women in uniform are given extra time to mail in absentee ballots, given that they might be serving in posts far from their homes.
The stakes of Obama for America v. Husted are clear. Obama narrowly won Ohio with 51.4 percent of its electorate and its 18 electoral votes remain hotly contested this year. Additionally, 30 percent of Ohio’s turnout cast their ballots early in 2008, according to a non-partisan voter advocacy group. This includes 93,000 votes in those last three days before the election.
Neither campaign had responded to ABC News’ request for comment.
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Dylan Byers, CNN
Nate Sunderland, EastIdahoNews.com
Eli Watkins, CNN
Pamela Brown, Jake Tapper and Dan Merica, CNN