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All Ohioans should be able to vote early

By Roland Martin, CNN Contributor
August 7, 2012 -- Updated 1347 GMT (2147 HKT)
All residents should be able to vote early and not just members of the military, says Roland Martin.
All residents should be able to vote early and not just members of the military, says Roland Martin.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Obama campaign sued Ohio in hopes that the state will allow early voting for all
  • Roland Martin: Why did the GOP-controlled legislature want to restrict residents from voting?
  • He says the GOP's nationwide attempts to suppress turnout in November is shameful
  • Martin: Any time any elected official seeks to undermine the right to vote is un-American

Editor's note: Roland Martin is a syndicated columnist and author of "The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House." He is a commentator for the TV One cable network and host/managing editor of its Sunday morning news show, "Washington Watch with Roland Martin."

(CNN) -- The campaigns of President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney are engaged in a fierce battle in Ohio, knowing full well that it is one of the critical battleground states that could determine who wins in November.

This battle is being waged on television, radio, on the ground and now in the courts after the Obama campaign sued the state, hoping it will open early voting for all residents of the state.

The Republican-led Ohio legislature first kicked off its voter suppression efforts last year when lawmakers passed an onerous election bill that they said was about voter protection. It was such a fraud that more than 300,000 Ohio residents signed a petition to have the measure placed on the statewide ballot this November.

Roland Martin
Roland Martin

Clearly not wanting to be embarrassed by the electorate, the Ohio legislature revoked everything in the bill, except the provision allowing only members of the military to vote three days before the election.

For years, Ohio residents were able to vote the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before the election. But for some reason, the GOP-controlled legislature felt that wasn't a good idea and decided to end the practice.

Now why in the world would anyone choose to restrict residents from voting? Doesn't it make sense to find more ways for Americans to vote? In 2008, nearly 100,000 Ohio residents voted during this period. Anyone with a brain would call that a success.

Civil rights advocates talk voting laws
New laws could keep many from voting
Ohio's important role in the election

Some critics say the voting restriction was specifically targeting black communities, preventing them from voting en masse on the weekend before the election. The Ohio GOP understands that such voters are overwhelmingly going to cast ballots for Obama, so why not shave off a few thousand votes in what is expected to be a very close election?

As a result, the Obama campaign sued Ohio, saying all residents should be able to vote early, not just those in the military.

The Romney camp has chastised Obama, saying the president doesn't want military members to vote early. This isn't a close one. Romney, his campaign team and lawyers are flat-out lying, and he knows it.

The length to which the GOP has gone nationwide to suppress turnout in November is shameful.

Opinion: U.S. voting rights under siege

Last week, testimony ended in a lawsuit in Pennsylvania over their voter suppression law. The state's case was so pathetic that the Pennsylvania secretary of state, who is charged with overseeing voting, admitted on the stand that she didn't know exactly how the law worked. The state also admitted they had no evidence of voter fraud in Pennsylvania, even though that was the reason they cited for passing the law.

The Romney camp shouldn't be wasting time attacking the Obama team for wanting to return early voting before the election for all voters. In a true spirit of bipartisanship, they should petition the court to invalidate the Ohio law and let all residents of the state vote the three days before the election.

There is no comprehensible reason any conservative or Republican should support the law in Ohio.

For the past two years, I've been a vocal opponent of these types of voter suppression effort, and the whole time I've asked my conservative and Republican friends to show me one example -- just one -- of their ideological buddies pushing an effort to actually expand voting rights. I'm still waiting.

Every American, regardless of party affiliation, should call out the Ohio GOP for its pitiful effort to keep law-abiding residents from casting a ballot a few days early.

Folks, voting is not a privilege. It's a right. And any time any elected official seeks to undermine that right, they should call the effort exactly what it is: un-American.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Roland Martin.

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