Christopher Devargas / Reuters
At the end of last week, it didn't look like Republican voter suppression efforts could get any more shameful. But over the weekend, the Mitt Romney campaign took things up to 11, jumping into the fray to accuse President Obama of discriminating against military voters.
To explain: As The Rachel Maddow Show detailed Thursday night, and Lean Forward recapped Friday, Ohio is the latest major swing-state—joining Florida and Pennsylvania—where the GOP bid to make voting harder, especially for Democratic groups, is in the spotlight. The Obama campaign is suing to reverse a measure signed last year by Republican Gov. John Kasich that scrapped the last three days of early voting for everyone except military voters. Republicans went ahead with the new law even though in 2008, over 93,000 people took advantage of those last three days to vote, and despite the fact that, as Maddow recounted in detail, excessive wait times at urban polling places on Election Day 2004 had led to a congressional report (pdf) urging reform.
That's pretty much where things stood Saturday morning. That day, Romney's campaign released a statement charging: “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.” The statement suggested that the lawsuit aims to "undermine" the voting rights of military voters.
In reality, of course, the suit does no such thing. Rather than preventing military personnel from voting during the three days at issue, it seeks to restore that opportunity for all voters—as was the case before last year when Kasich and GOP lawmakers changed the law. (You can see for yourself by reading the Obama campaign's brief [pdf]. The relevant excerpt is at the bottom of page 4).
The Obama camapign was quick to point that out. “The way frankly Governor Romney has stated it is completely false and misleading,” David Axelrod, a top Obama aide, said on Fox News Sunday. “That suit is about whether the rest of Ohio should have the same right. And I think it’s shameful that Governor Romney would hide behind our servicemen and women to try and win a lawsuit to deprive other Ohioans, deprive other Ohioans of the right to vote.”
So on Sunday, Team Romney issued a new statement that subtly backed off the charge that Obama sought to "undermine" military voting rights, but continued to imply, falsely, that the suit somehow targeted the military.
“It is not only constitutional, but commendable that the Ohio legislature granted military voters and their families this accommodation,” Katie Biber, a lawyer with the Romney campaign, said in Sunday's statement. "It is despicable for the Obama campaign to challenge Ohio’s lawful decision.”
Of course, Biber didn't mention that the legislature only granted the "accommodation" to military voters after first taking it away for everyone else.
What's despicable, some might say, is that Republicans would first make it harder to vote, then seek to gain further political advantage by misrepresenting the Obama campaign's effort to fix the problem.