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Count Every Vote in Ohio

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January 17, 2008

Today, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in federal court against Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections to block the usage of a voting system that prevents voters from fixing mistakes on their ballots.

In December, Brunner cast a tie-breaking vote that forced Cuyahoga County (Ohio’s most populous county, which contains Cleveland) to adopt this “central count optical scan” (CCOS) voting system, in which paper ballots are immediately shipped from a polling place to a central location where they are “read” by an optical scan machine. Under this arrangement, a voter is given no opportunity to correct an error on his or her ballot. If this system is used in upcoming elections and voters cannot verify that their ballots have been completed properly, those votes will be spoiled and go uncounted.

However, optical scan voting systems with counting features that provide error notification to voters are used in other parts of the state. It is in violation of the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment – and the Voting Rights Act – to maintain a dual system of voting that does not value the rights of Ohio’s voters equally.

Once again, Ohio is an electoral battleground state this year and the votes from Cuyahoga County could very well determine the winner of the presidential election. With stakes this high and Ohio’s presidential primary only weeks away, Cuyahoga County must abandon its flawed and unreliable voting technology now in order to equally protect the rights of every voter.

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