(CNN) – President Barack Obama's campaign says it has sued Ohio's secretary of state over early-voting provisions in the Buckeye State.
The campaign wants the state to return to laws it had in 2008, prior to when the state underwent myriad election reforms under a Republican-controlled legislature.
At issue is a provision in the state’s election law that eliminates the final three days before Election Day - Saturday, Sunday and Monday - from the voting calendar. While early voting begins 35 days ahead of time (and 45 days for those in the military or overseas), Democrats argue the final weekend marks a crucial window of time for voters to head to the polls.
The campaign said 30% of all votes cast in 2008 came early, with 93,000 cast in the final three days before Election Day.
In a joint statement between Obama Ohio adviser Aaron Pickrell, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern, and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrats railed against the measure as a "partisan attempt to restrict voting."
“Through a series of legislative maneuvering concluding with a bill passed this May, Republicans were able to remove the last three days of Early Voting for the vast majority of Ohio voters, a cynical move that is both unfair and unjust,” the statement read.
Republicans, however, argue that those three days are necessary to have clear in order to prepare for Election Day.
“You need those last three days for the local (election) boards to get their records straight,” Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, told CNN. “Make sure their voting rolls are accurate.”
Husted argued the new provision only makes Ohio voting more consistent, saying in the past the state lacked uniformity across all counties, meaning some areas chose to be open in the final weekend, while others were closed.
The provision allowing the end of the three-day window first passed under an omnibus election reform law in 2011. Voters grew upset with other provisions in that law, so the legislature drafted a new bill to repeal that law in May before voters could vote on the measure in a scheduled referendum this November.
However, the new law passed in May retained the three-day window ban, prompting complaints from Democrats.
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 noted, for every voter to vote by absentee ballot “from the comfort of their own home.”
Opponents, he said, don’t want an “accountability system,” one that “requires some level of personal responsibility to take initiative to get to the polls” or request an absentee ballot.
“To me, it seems pretty easy to vote if you really care about who your president is going to be,” he said.
The state GOP echoed his sentiments, saying the provision that passed under the initial law had support from both parties last year.
"Democrats' outcry now is a just another circus sideshow,” Republican Chairman Bob Bennett said in a statement. “It's confusing for Democrats to be suing over this when they supported it in the first place. Nobody is being disenfranchised here, as Ohio's voters who choose to vote early can do so by mail 24 hours a day, seven days a week or at early voting polls.”
But Obama’s campaign argues that it is standing up for thousands of voters who could take advantage of that final weekend before Election Day.
“The last three days of Early Vote are especially important to ensuring a free and fair election,” the campaign's statement read. “That is why today, we are moving forward in the fight to reinstate the last 3 days of Early Voting and ensure that all Ohio voters can make their voices heard this November.”
Ohio represents a crucial battleground state in the presidential election. Both candidates have made several visits to the Buckeye State in recent weeks, with Mitt Romney scheduled to appear at a campaign event in Bowling Green outside of Toledo on Wednesday - two days after Obama visited Cincinnati on Monday.
The suit, Obama for America v. Husted, was filed in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Ohio.