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Published: Friday, 8/10/2012

Campaign distortion

The notion that President Obama -- or any other rational politician -- would seek to curtail the right to vote of servicemen and women is absurd. Yet Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is peddling that canard in an attempt to win votes in this critical battleground state. Ohio voters surely are too savvy to fall for such nonsense.

Last year, Ohio's Republican-controlled General Assembly passed an election "reform" bill that needlessly limited the ability of some citizens -- most of whom historically lean toward Democratic candidates -- to vote. When Democrats promised to put a referendum on the new law on the Nov. 6 ballot, GOP lawmakers decided to rescind the restrictions rather than hand the other party an issue to energize voters.

One part of the law remains in effect, though, because it also was included in a separate law. That provision, in accordance with federal mandates, allows military members, their families, and civilians who live overseas to vote through the Monday before Election Day. Early voting for all other Ohioans ends the Friday before the election.

The Obama campaign sued Ohio to keep the early-voting ban from taking effect. The lawsuit says it's unconstitutional to extend voting opportunities for one class of voters -- the military -- but not others. According to the suit, the purpose of legal action is "to restore in-person early voting for all Ohioans during the three days prior to Election Day," military and nonmilitary alike.

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But that didn't stop Mr. Romney -- and his friends at Fox News -- from claiming that the suit was intended to disfranchise the soldiers, sailors, and airmen who defend the liberties -- such as voting -- that other Americans enjoy. The nonpartisan fact-checking organization Politifact rated that claim "false."

The lawsuit seeks a return to the way things were in 2008, when 93,000 Ohioans cast their ballots on the final three days before the Nov. 4 presidential election. Early and absentee voting had been expanded in Ohio and other states after the 2004 presidential election, when long lines and broken equipment caused some people to wait hours to vote, while others simply gave up.

The Obama campaign's motives are not altruistic: Many of the final weekend's early voters were elderly, poor, or minority citizens who often favor Democrats. But that's not an excuse to play fast and loose with the truth.

There is a long list of issues on which Ohio voters would like to hear Mr. Romney's and Mr. Obama's positions: taxes and tax reform, the growing national debt, job creation, infrastructure repair, the continuing housing crisis, drought relief, global warming, Syria, Iran, Israel, China.

Campaigning on distortions and half-truths is an insult to all Ohio voters -- military, civilian, left, right, and center.



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