September 17, 2012

We filed an amicus brief today with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit urging a three-judge panel to overturn a lower court decision which prohibits the State of Ohio from providing members of the U.S. Armed Forces a small amount of additional time to vote.

As you may recall, The Obama campaign filed a federal lawsuit challenging a state-enacted measure giving members of the military three extra days to vote early before Election Day. A federal district court agreed with the Obama campaign and put in place a preliminary injunction preventing the Ohio military voting rights measure from being used.

In our "friend-of-the-court" brief, posted here, we urge the appeals court to to reverse the lower court decision and vacate the preliminary injunction.

The fact is that members of the U.S. military make tremendous sacrifices to protect and defend our freedoms here and abroad. The Ohio law accommodates the uncertainty that comes with serving in the Armed Forces and simply gives our service men and women a few extra days to exercise their right to vote.

In the brief filed today, the ACLJ argues that the Constitution, including the Equal Protection Clause, allows governments to recognize the reality that armed service members and their families make tremendous sacrifices that other Americans do not make. The ACLJ contends: "The Ohio General Assembly has enacted a sensible accommodation that addresses, albeit to a minor degree, a most troubling irony: military service to protect fundamental principles such as the right to vote makes the ability to exercise that right much more difficult for members of the armed services and their families. This accommodation is constitutionally sound."

In addition to representing the ACLJ in this brief, we represent more than 100,000 Americans who have signed on to the Committee to Defend Military Voting Rights.

As we reported earlier, the Supreme Court has long held that the military is unique, "a specialized community governed by a separate discipline from that of the civilian," in part because "'it is the primary business of armies and navies to fight or be ready to figh wars should that occasion arise.'"

The ACLJ's argument in the brief is clear:

"The reality is that members of the armed services and their spouses and dependents often have, in practical terms, a much smaller window of time than other Ohioans to exercise their right to vote due to the rigors of military life. Plaintiffs-Appellees’ civilian members are not faced with the kind of government imposed family dislocations and disruptions created by the demands of military service, including preparation for, and recovery from, temporary duty and deployment assignments. Members of the armed services (unlike Plaintiffs-Appellees’ members) have to pack up and go wherever the Department of Defense tells them to go, often on short notice, leaving them with a small window of time to make sure that all of their family and personal affairs are in order."

The Ohio measure is certainly reasonable and is fully consistent with the U.S. Constitution. The Obama campaign's challenge is legally flawed and we urge the appeals court to reject the lower court decision and take the appropriate action to permit members of U.S. Armed forces to participate fully in the electoral process.