Friday, October 17, 2008

Supreme Court Strikes Down Voter Intimidation Decision in Ohio

There was grim news earlier this week as the Ohio GOP won a court case in Ohio concerning voter database and registration questions. The lower court case, if it had stood, would have opened the door to voter intimidation for 200,000 or more voters in Ohio. And it would have caused acrimonious and unfair treatment of voters at the polls on Nov. 4th.

On Friday, the Supreme Court said no to the GOP case in Ohio.

Washington - The Supreme Court on Friday overturned a lower court's order requiring state officials in Ohio to supply information that would have made it easier to challenge prospective voters. The decision was a setback for Ohio Republicans, who had sued to force the Ohio secretary of state, a Democrat, to provide information about database mismatches to county officials. The decision has the potential to affect as many as 200,000 of the 660,000 new voters who have been registered in Ohio since Jan. 1, according Social Security Administration and state election officials.

The Supreme Court, in a brief, unsigned decision, said lower federal courts in Ohio should not have ordered the secretary of state, Jennifer Brunner, to turn over the information. The court acted just before a deadline requiring Ms. Brunner to act set by a federal judge in Columbus.

A 2002 federal law, the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, requires states to check voter registration applications against government databases like those for driver's license records. Names that do not match are flagged. Ohio Republicans sought to require Ms. Brunner to provide information about mismatches to local officials.

Those officials could use information to require voters to cast provisional ballots rather than regular ones. They could also allow partisan poll workers to challenge people on the lists. Given Democratic success in registering new voters this year, those actions would probably affect that party's supporters disproportionately.

The court said it expressed "no opinion on the question whether HAVA is being properly implemented." But it said that Congress probably had not intended to allow private litigants like political parties to sue to enforce the part of the law concerning databases.

Ms. Brunner welcomed Friday's ruling from the Supreme Court. - By ADAM LIPTAK and IAN URBINA, New York Times

This is for sure a big win for us and all our brand new voters in Ohio and around the country. I have no doubt that if this had succeeded the GOP would be filing similar actions in battleground states everywhere. Glad that the voter's privacy has been protected and that this bad decision was overturned.