ACLU of Ohio Says Hasty Election Changes May Disenfranchise Voters

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
December 17, 2007 12:00 am

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ACLU of Ohio
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CLEVELAND – The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio today cautioned election officials that making drastic changes to voting technologies could inadvertently disenfranchise Ohio voters in the upcoming 2008 elections. Earlier this month, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner issued a report outlining some of the security shortcomings of Ohio’s voting systems. In addition, Brunner issued specific recommendations that the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections adopt central count optical scan technology in place of its current system.

At the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections’ December 17, 2007 meeting, ACLU of Ohio cooperating attorney Daniel Tokaji offered testimony pointing out that the use of such technology may contribute to votes being lost due to overvoting and undervoting, particularly in communities with high numbers of people of color.

Toakaji said, “While the concerns Secretary of State Brunner outlined in her report should be carefully considered, the recommendations to switch technologies only months before the March primary could have disastrous effects.”

The ACLU of Ohio filed a lawsuit against Ohio in Stewart v. Blackwell after the 2000 presidential election exposed several constitutional and statutory violations involving the administration of elections in several Ohio counties. Disparities between punch-card and optical scanning and/or touch screen systems arbitrarily deprive voters of the equal protection of the law and the right to due process, the ACLU charged. Although the ACLU of Ohio won the case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the issue became moot when the state had changed voting technology.

Tokaji added, “Ohio has very real concerns with the upcoming 2008 elections, but changing technologies to a method that has been proven to disenfranchise voters is not an adequate solution. Elections officials should focus on the human element, including training and procedures for those at the polls, in order to best impact elections.”

A copy of Tokaji’s testimony is available online at: www.acluohio.org

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