Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod gave voice to a careful walk-back by the Obama campaign over its challenge to an Ohio early voting law.
The campaign sued the Ohio Secretary of State last month over confusing legislation which restores military voters the right to cast early ballots until the day before Election Day, while ordinary voters cannot after the Friday before the election.
On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Axelrod if he believes military voters should not be given special consideration, to which the top Obama adviser responded, "I absolutely do."
Axelrod went on to call the formulation of the question a false Romney talking point, but his response betrays the treacherous public relations line the Obama campaign is walking.
Tthe legal objection filed by the Obama campaign is not to roll back voting for service members, but to extend early voting for all until the day before Election Day. But the challenge for the Obama campaign is that the means through which they are pushing through the change — essentially arguing that accepting early ballots from early military voters and not ordinary civillians in that three day period is arbitrary and unconstitutional.
Military groups are opposing the Obama effort, fearful of a precedent-setting decision that would make it more difficult to extend extra time or other benefits to military voters — a line now embraced by the Romney campaign.
The Obama campaign says they fully support accommodations for service members, they just want the early voting rights to be given to all.
The Columbus Dispatch's Joe Vardon explores the political reasons for the Obama campaign's decision to sue — notably that early voters are thought to break for Obama.
In their initial filing, the Obama campaign argued that it was arbitrary for military voters to be able to submit ballots during the three-day period but not non-military voters. But now they appear to be shifting their defense of the lawsuit, telling BuzzFeed that what is arbitrary is not the difference between military voters and ordinary civilians, but that the Ohio voters could vote in the three-day period before the election in 2008 but cannot in 2012.
CLARIFICATION: The laws restore military voting rights which were present in the 2008 cycle.
UPDATE: Adam Fetcher, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, sent BuzzFeed the following statement:
"It is not correct that the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party have shifted the position taken in the case brought in Ohio to protect early voting for the vast majority of the state's voters over the last three days before the general election.
We fully support accommodations for the military, such as the Uniformed Overseas and Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) and the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act that President Obama signed into law. We also believe it is arbitrary for the state to open the polls for the weekend and Monday before the general election but to turn away most Ohio citizens who seek to cast their vote during this period. We support the right of the military and overseas voters to vote then, and we support the right of all other Ohio voters to take advantage of this same opportunity. In short, everyone should have equal opportunity to come in on election day – or during the days leading up to it at open polling locations – and cast a vote.
It is important to note that Ohio voters have successfully qualified a referendum on the ballot to stop the legislature from enacting a series of limitations on voting, including early voting for all citizens during the last three days before the general election. After the referendum was approved for the November ballot, the state's legislative leadership claimed it would repeal this early voting restriction. But the General Assembly then proceeded to re-enact it – in direct disregard of the will of the voters.
As the case before the court makes entirely clear, this case is aimed at arbitrary exclusion. It is about restoring rights, not taking them away."