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Thousands of Eligible Ohio Voters' Registrations at Risk

October 7, 2008

For Immediate Release: October 7, 2008

CONTACTS: \t Meg Reilly, mreilly@gloverparkgroup.com, 202.292.6975

THOUSANDS OF ELIGIBLE OHIO VOTERS’ REGISTRATIONS AT RISK

Voting rights experts urge U.S. District Court to uphold election law

October 7, 2008 — Voting rights experts urged the U.S. District Court today to uphold Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner’s interpretation of applicable election law and honor all eligible voter registrations in the state. A coalition of voting rights experts filed a brief today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio to fight efforts that would retroactively cast doubt on the validity of thousands of voter registrations properly submitted by Ohio residents since January 1, 2008.

“Secretary Brunner’s interpretation of election law will ensure that only eligible voter registrations are counted without jeopardizing anyone’s right to vote,” said Jon Greenbaum, director of Voting Rights Project for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, “So it’s essential that we uphold this process and resist any efforts to implement steps that will threaten every Ohioan’s right to efficient, fair and accurate elections.”

The brief was filed today on behalf of the ACLU of Ohio, Project Vote, Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH), 1Matters and two individual voters. It was filed in opposition to the Ohio Republican Party’s renewed motion for a temporary restraining order against Secretary Brunner to challenge her interpretation of applicable election law. The plaintiffs mistakenly claim that the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires Secretary Brunner to attempt to retroactively match certain registration records by computer with the Ohio driver’s license database and the Social Security Administration database, as a means for verifying registrants’ eligibility to vote. If executed, this process could cast doubt on the validity of thousands of eligible voter registrations in the state.

“Last-minute purges of the voter rolls are a recipe for disfranchisement and would violate the federally protected rights of thousands of Ohio voters to participate in the presidential election that is now only four weeks away,” said Brenda Wright, Legal Director of Dēmos’ Democracy Program, one of the counsel for amici. “We urge the court to reject this latest effort to drive down political participation and sow confusion on the eve of the election.”

ACLU of Ohio Staff Attorney Carrie Davis also weighed in: “After years of last minute political maneuverings hampering our right to vote, Ohioans need to have their faith in the electoral process restored. Challenging recently registered voters will only disenfranchise some voters and continue to foster voters’ deep distrust of how elections are conducted in the Buckeye State.”

While HAVA does include a limited database matching requirement, it does not require that it be utilized to determine whether registration applicants are eligible to vote. It is simply used as a means for identifying duplicate registration records. Further, both HAVA and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) impose specific restrictions on the authority of states to remove people from registration rolls to ensure that people who are eligible and registered are not mistakenly deleted from the rolls.

“Ohio officials from both sides of the isle should be doing everything they can to ensure that every eligible vote is cast and counted this election season,” said Goldman, “It’s unfortunate that we continue to face new barriers to a fair election.”

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Election Protection is the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Through its 1-866-OUR-VOTE Hotline (1-866-687-8683) and dedicated team of legal experts and trained volunteers, Election Protection helps all American voters, including traditionally disenfranchised groups, gain access to the polls and overcome obstacles to voting, offering live assistance. The coalition has more than 100 partners at the national, state and local level, and is providing live voter protection services now through Election Day for all 50 states.

For more information about Election Protection and the 1-866-OUR-VOTE Hotline, please visit: www.866ourvote.org.