Ohio The Only State To Give Special Early Voting Preferences To Military Voters

Ohio is the only state in the country that gives military voters special preferences when it comes to voting early:

Despite claims that Democrats’ challenge to an Ohio voting law would undermine military voters’ rights everywhere, no other states offer soldiers’ the special status afforded in Ohio. A report issued Aug. 1 by the nonpartisan Ohio Legislative Service Commission found that no other states have any legal provision that has one early in-person voting deadline for most voters and another for servicemembers, as does the Ohio law being challenged by the Obama campaign and defended by Ohio Republicans and some fraternal military organizations. The report, which has not been released publicly, was obtained by BuzzFeed and has been published here for the first time. The report does note that two states — Indiana and North Carolina — have exceptions in their laws that would allow a very narrow subset of servicemembers to vote early in-person later than other voters. The Obama campaign’s lawsuit in Ohio, in which it is joined by the Democratic National Committee and the Ohio Democratic Party, is about early voting. The specific laws being challenged, however, relate only to in-person early voting and not to traditional mail-in absentee voting, which clearly cuts down on the number of affected active servicemembers. (…) As reported at BuzzFeed over the weekend, the lawsuit aims to expand the later early in-person voting deadline to all voters — not to restrict the early in-person voting deadline of servicemembers. Opponents of the suit, however, have expressed concern about the future implications for other servicemember-related voting laws. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted questioned why the Obama campaign was focused on Ohio, telling reporters after the lawsuit was filed, “Why isn’t it a problem in the 49 other states where they do the same kinds of things?”

Well, now you know why, it’s because none of the other 49 states have such a law. The Indiana and North Carolina laws involve members of the military who, because of deployment, may have missed a voter registration deadline, not an extension of the time to vote. As I noted last week, there really is no rational basis for this preference for military voters in early voting and, considering that there is a good chance this all happened because of a legislative mix-up in Columbus, there really is no reason for it continue. Now that we know Ohio is the only state that does this, I would argue that the legal argument in favor of the preference becomes even weaker.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Law and the Courts, Military Affairs, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Andy says:

    Agree. Such laws should be based on circumstances, not category, group, or class.

  2. wr says:

    Except of course they’re not “giving special early voting preferance to military voters.”

    They’re taking away early voting from everybody BUT military voters.

  3. mantis says:

    Obviously this proves that the president hates the troops. I look forward to Mitt Romney’s new ad about B. Hussein Obama taking away soldiers’ voting rights and Doug ignoring it because a SuperPAC claimed layoffs caused by vulture capitalists have consequences, which is a despicable thing to do.

  4. Tsar Nicholas says:

    What’s sort of funny about all this — in a tragic farce sense — is that the same people who demand under penalty of protest the government treat people differently because of race and gender — a/k/a “affirmative action” proponents — reflexively will oppose a state law that provides different voting deadlines for servicemembers, who are out there literally dying for their country and for our ability to be a democracy. How many layers of irony are present in that dichotomy?

    Also, postulate this hypothetical scenario: State X as part of its own ADA-style legislative and regulatory framework decides that people with various physical and mental disabilities should be given different early voting deadlines, thereby to help insure they get a chance to participate. Would the left oppose that? Uh, no. And the likes of BuzzFeed would not be in OCD/high dudgeon mode over it. Give a servicemember a break, however, to help insure they get a chance to vote, and Katy bar the door because that . . . cannot . . . be . . . tolerated!!

  5. @Tsar Nicholas:

    There is no rational basis for creating different voting deadlines for in-state voters based on what group they belong to.

  6. John Peabody says:

    I’m amazed at how much of a ‘hot-button’ this is. I was severely slapped on another site for saying that this wasn’t a big deal.

  7. gVOR08 says:

    Doug, a couple of days ago, you said in reference to this,

    It’s not hard to see a partisan reason behind the discrepancy, of course.


    …there is a good chance this all happened because of a legislative mix-up in Columbus, there really is no reason for it continue.

    I had not previously heard any claim of a mix-up. Where did this come from? It’s still pretty easy to see a partisan reason, isn’t it? And they seem to be defending this “mix-up” pretty strongly. Without evidence to the contrary, it’s hard to see how this, and all the rest of it, isn’t deliberate ratfracking vote suppression.

  8. @gVOR08:

    Go back to the original post, reference is made in one of the articles quoted about that.

  9. al-Ameda says:

    What about special circumstances for “job creators” too? Maybe they should get another 3 days? Or perhaps maybe they should get more than one vote – one for each person they employee.

    Someone should call bull$&@€ on this.

  10. sam says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Give a servicemember a break, however, to help insure they get a chance to vote, and Katy bar the door because that . . . cannot . . . be . . . tolerated!!

    Of course, that’s not what is happening, if you are implying that someone wants to take early voting privileges away from service members. What’s being argued for in the Ohio case is not a matter of subtraction, it’s a matter of addition.

  11. gVOR08 says:

    @Doug Mataconis: @Doug Mataconis: Doug, I appreciate the post. I hadn’t elsewhere seen the revelation that Sec of State Husted had lied when he claimed precedent elsewhere.

    Following links, all I find is that Chris Geidner, at Buzzfeed reported:
    “In fact, the lawsuit is addressing what it calls “a confused legislative process” surrounding the passage of three voting laws in a short period in Ohio. The effect of those laws is: (1) in-person early voting in Ohio ends for most voters on the Friday before the election and (2) two conflicting deadlines regarding the end of in-person early voting for those voting under the auspices of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter Act, which includes servicemembers and their families.”

    I read “legislative mix-up in Columbus” as implying maybe they didn’t really intend to do this. The description by the Obama camp of a “confused legislative process” resulting in a clear earlier cutoff for civilians and a confused date for military implies intent to deny civilians a weekend of early voting and a clumsy attempt to reinstate the weekend for military. Still sounds like premeditated vote suppression.

    FYI, I live in the city of Cincinnati, and apparently my polling place, unlike the suburban counties, is going to close at 5:00 this year. I can easily take an hour off work if necessary. Others cannot.

  12. swbarnes2 says:


    FYI, I live in the city of Cincinnati, and apparently my polling place, unlike the suburban counties, is going to close at 5:00 this year. I can easily take an hour off work if necessary. Others cannot.

    Emphesis mine. Republicans restrict voting access more in blue counties than red ones.

  13. Ron Beasley says:

    Here in Oregon we don’t have polling places. We get a ballot in the mail about 3 weeks before the election and we can mail it back or drop it off at one of the many drop boxes. The same applies tp Washington. Best of all it saves a lot on money.

  14. David M says:

    @Ron Beasley: There’s one major drawback to the OR/WA vote by mail system: it’s too easy to vote,

  15. Tano says:

    there is a good chance this all happened because of a legislative mix-up in Columbus

    No Doug. The GOP was intent on suppressing the vote, so they took away the right to vote on the last weekend before the election.
    But they didn’t want to catch any heat about screwing over military people, so they exempted them.

    No screw-up. No attempt to give special treatment to the military. Just a blatant attempt to make it harder to vote for everyone, with an exemption being made for the military, since not doing so would be problematical, politically.

    Seems kinda obvious….

  16. Ron Beasley says:

    @David M: I will assume that’s snark.

  17. David M says:

    @Ron Beasley: Very much so, I think the people that want to encourage voting should push for it everywhere.

  18. Larry M says:

    If all the polling places are going to be open for servicemen and women, what is the reasoning (real or made up crap by the republicans} for not allowing other people to vote as well?

  19. gVOR08 says:

    @Tano: Absolutely correct. Had they simply cut voting by three days for everyone, I doubt anyone would have called them out for not granting the military a special favor they’ve never had before and wouldn’t have expected. It would have been politically problematical only because it would have deprived them of a few military votes, which they believe to be reliably Republican.

  20. wayne says:

    So many of you see no difference in needs for early voting between an person living in state, a person living in civilize place like London and a service member who could be deployed overseas. Possibly at an isolated base with little communications. What bright people you are .

    You probly don’t recall military ballots not being counted in the last Pres election because of mail screw ups from overseas either.

  21. David M says:

    @wayne: There is a separate law for service members that are deployed overseas, this will only affect citizens living in Ohio. If the suit is successful, the service members will still have the extra 3 days to vote, along with all the other voters.

  22. Eric the OTB Lurker says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Boy, does Tsar Nicholas ever get tired of sounding like an idiot? I can’t recall one comment of his that hasn’t had more negative votes than positive. All deserved.

  23. Adela Wagner says:

    As a proud American and daughter of a Cuban immigrant who came here in 1958 and was able to become an American citizen before she passed away, I uphold the service members who put their lives on the line to keep this country free and a shining beacon to those in other countries who do not have the privilege of voting. I have NO PROBLEM with honoring these brave members of the military with 3 days here in Ohio to have the early polling stations to themselves and their families. Everyone here can vote until that Friday (as it was before), then again on Tuesday in the General Election. And just as I would certainly let a service member cut in line in front of me just to show my gratitude, I will honor them by gladly saying keep those days open for them so they do not have to wait in line or take away time from anything else they want to do. I have no grudge against anyone, just great respect for our Freedom fighters. They ARE special to me.