Romney’s Military-Vote-Suppression Smear

By
149642091CK008_MITT_ROMNEY_
Photo: Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Four years ago, Ohio had three days of early voting, which is obviously convenient for Ohioans who wish to exercise the franchise but have inflexible work schedules or limited child care or other life inconveniences. Republicans passed a law eliminating this early voting period for everybody but active-duty members of the military. The Obama campaign is suing to restore early voting for everybody. Mitt Romney is naturally framing this as an attempt to limit voting by soldiers.

Obviously this is your basic political smear, but there’s also a little more going on here. Consider Romney’s justification for longer in-person voting windows for members of the military:

The brave men and women of our military make tremendous sacrifices to protect and defend our freedoms, and we should do everything we can to protect their fundamental right to vote.

If the ability to get to the polls is the “fundamental right to vote,” then why shouldn’t all eligible citizens enjoy that right? The debate here is about whether the state ought to make it convenient for people to vote. The question here doesn’t concern absentee balloting for service members stationed overseas. It’s about in-person voting. Obviously the demands of military life sometimes make it hard to show up at the polls on a given day that happens to be a workday, but this is also true of the demands of non-military life.

If Romney is conceding that voting is a fundamental right rather than a privilege — not all Republicans concede this anymore — and, more importantly, that practical impediments can interfere with that right, then what justification do they have for their wide-ranging campaign to deny the same convenience to other Americans?