U.S. Supreme Court Protects Newly Registered Ohioans' Voting Rights

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
October 17, 2008 12:00 am

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ACLU Hails Decision As A Major Victory For Ohio Voters

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WASHINGTON – In a major victory for voting rights, the U.S. Supreme Court today issued an order protecting voters in Ohio from attempts to challenge their registrations based on small inaccuracies in government databases. The order reverses an appeals court decision that required Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to provide all 88 county Boards of Elections with lists of mismatched voters that had discrepancies between the information on their registration forms and other government databases. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a friend-of-the-court brief early this morning in support of Brunner’s position.

“We are grateful that the Supreme Court reversed the flawed appeals court decision. Today’s decision protects the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of Ohioans who could have been illegally disenfranchised,” said Meredith Bell-Platts, staff counsel with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “Had this program gone forward, Ohio voters would have been subjected to added confusion and chaos at the polls. While there are plenty of other voter suppression strategies being deployed in Ohio and across the country, at least this one has been put to rest.”

If the program went into effect, failed matches could have resulted in hundreds of thousands of lawful voters being purged from the rolls, challenged at the polls or required to cast provisional ballots.

“This is a major victory for Ohio voters. We hope that political parties will think twice the next time they try to play games with voter lists in the weeks before an election,” said Carrie Davis, staff counsel with the ACLU of Ohio. “Purging voters because of data errors is unlawful. We must continue to be vigilant and fight against these and other forms of voter suppression.”

On Thursday, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio ordered Brunner to provide the information in the databases. That decision was reversed the next day by a panel of three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Upon hearing the case, the full appeals court overruled the panel and ordered Brunner to provide the information. Brunner appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and the case is called Ohio Republican Party, et. al. v. Brunner.

The Supreme Court’s order is available at: www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/08pdf/08A332.pdf

The ACLU’s friend-of-the-court brief is available online at: www.aclu.org/votingrights/gen/37196lgl20081017.html

More information about the ACLU’s voting rights cases is available online at: www.aclu.org/votingrights/gen/36949res20080929.html

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