The Ohio Republican Party filed a complaint Wednesday with the Franklin County Board of Elections alleging the Buckeyes for Obama student organization at Ohio State University violated a law that prohibits offering something of value for a person's vote.
Ohio State is one of America's largest campuses, with more than 56,000 students. Buckeyes for Obama began a series of early vote rallies Oct. 22 that run through Nov. 1. On posters, the events are advertised: "Free Food. Come Together. Make History."
Ohio Republican Chairman Bob Bennett attached an affidavit to his complaint letter quoting an anonymous student staffer of the Obama campaign saying the campaign has an "unlimited" tab with the pizza chain Donatos for the six rallies, being held at the Ohio Union.
Participants also got free bumper stickers and free transportation to the nearby early voting center, the complaint said.
Bennett's letter to directors of the bipartisan election board said "it is reasonable to infer that the individuals handing out food, including the Obama for America staffers, were attempting to — and in fact, may have succeed at — influencing electors to register to vote and/or cast a ballot. Such conduct is clearly prohibited under Ohio law."
The Franklin County board plans to take up the issue immediately.
In a media briefing Friday, the Obama campaign said its yearslong grassroots organizing effort in Ohio is paying off with strong showings in early voting in key areas across the state, including college campuses.
The state Democratic Party said the GOP's challenge was ironic coming from Republicans who tried to block early voting opportunities ahead of the Nov. 6 election.
"Democrats went to court to fight off the Republican attack on the final three days of early voting. Meanwhile, Republicans threatened us with a lawsuit because they're upset about a pizza party," said party spokesman Jerid Kurtz. "The difference in priorities couldn't be clearer."
County election boards in Ohio are comprised of two Republicans and two Democrats. Ties are broken by the secretary of state, who is currently a Republican.