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Ashley Killough CNN
Published: 06 August 2012

David Axelrod, senior campaign adviser to
President Barack Obama


(CNN) -- David Axelrod, senior campaign adviser to President Barack Obama, forcefully hit back Sunday against accusations that the president's re-election team was trying to curb early voting rights for Ohio military voters and those residing overseas.

Mitt Romney's campaign said Saturday that a lawsuit filed by Team Obama against Ohio's secretary of state targets military voters by saying "it is unconstitutional for Ohio to allow servicemen and women extended early voting privileges during the state's early voting period."

"At least 20 times in their legal papers, they argue that there is no good reason to give special flexibility to military voters -- and that this policy adopted by the Ohio legislature is so wrong it is unconstitutional," Katie Biber, general counsel for the Romney campaign, said in a statement.

Axelrod said the Romney argument distorts the facts. In Ohio, recent election reforms in the GOP-controlled legislature eliminated the three-day window running up to Election Day - Saturday, Sunday and Monday - from the early voting calendar. Those living overseas and members of the military, however, are still allowed to take advantage of those three days and cast their absentee ballots.

The lawsuit, filed in mid-July, calls on the state to return the three-day voting weekend for all Ohio voters, not just members of the military.

Axelrod said Romney's campaign has misconstrued the lawsuit in a way that is "completely false and misleading."

"What that lawsuit calls for is not to deprive the military of the right to vote in the final weekend of the campaign. Of course they should have that right. What that suit is about is whether the rest of Ohio should have the same right, and I think it's shameful that Gov. Romney would hide behind our servicemen and women," Axelrod said on "Fox News Sunday."

Obama's campaign has also accused Ohio's state government of "partisan" attempts to restrict voting.

According to CNN national exit polling data, those who had served in the military voted 54% for Sen. John McCain and 44% for Obama in the 2008 election.

In an interview with CNN last month, Secretary of State Jon Husted chided the idea that the new law was politically motivated and said the three days were needed to help state workers prepare for Election Day.

"You need those last three days for the local (election) boards to get their records straight," said Husted, a Republican. "Make sure their voting rolls are accurate."

Husted made the case that it's "extremely easy" to vote in Ohio and highlighted the 35-day early voting time period, or "790 hours" as he put it, available for voters to cast their ballot. The state has also made it possible, he said, for every voter to vote by absentee ballot "from the comfort of their own home."

Obama's campaign, however, says it's standing up for thousands of voters who could take advantage of that final weekend before Election Day in Ohio, a crucial battleground state. Axelrod said Sunday the Romney campaign should get a better understanding of what exactly the lawsuit aims to achieve.

"They need to look at the lawsuit and they need to know that that lawsuit, it stands up for the right of the military service people to vote early. But it wants that right for everybody in Ohio," Axelrod said.

Some military groups, though, side with the state of Ohio in the lawsuit, including the National Guard Association of the United States, the Association of the U.S. Army, Association of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps League and Military Officers Association of America, according to court filings.

The groups filed with the court a motion to intervene, asking it to dismiss the case. As to the different voting provisions, the groups said that "it is both laudable and constitutionally appropriate for the State to do everything in its power to facilitate voting by military personnel in any form; the fact that similar arrangements are not offered to civilians does not render them unconstitutional."

In the Romney campaign statement, Biber said it was "despicable" for Team Obama to challenge the Ohio law.

"The Obama campaign may not like the early voting policy that the Ohio legislature set. This does not mean the policy is unconstitutional, and it certainly does not mean that a federal court should be permitted to remake it," she said.

CNN's Gregory Wallace and Lindsey Knight contributed to this report.

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