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U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Ohio Voters' Rights

October 17, 2008

For Immediate Release:  October 17, 2008

Meg Reilly, mreilly@gloverparkgroup.com, 202.292.6975



Voting rights experts are available for interviews about significant decision that protects new voters' rights

October 17, 2008 - Election Protection, the nation's largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, commended the U.S. Supreme Court today for protecting new voters in Ohio from eleventh-hour challenges to their right to vote.  The Supreme Court's unanimous order overruled recent decisions by two lower courts, which had found that the Help America Vote Act (known as "HAVA") required Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to perform cumbersome and unnecessary computer matching on the records of hundreds of thousands of newly-registered voters, and then turn the results over to county election officials.  Had the Secretary of State been required to go forward under the lower courts' orders, thousands of eligible new Ohio voters could have faced last-minute disenfranchisement.

"The Supreme Court decided today that HAVA doesn't give anyone the right to challenge another citizen's right to vote," said Jon Greenbaum, director of Voting Rights Project for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "In the final days before this historic election, it is essential that we remove unnecessary barriers to processing registrations and ensuring that all eligible voters have fair and equal access at the polls.  The lower court orders that the Supreme Court reversed today would have had just the opposite effect, because they imposed new and untested procedures on the eve of the election that would have done more harm than good."

Today's decision vacated an October 9th injunction by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, which had directed Secretary of State Brunner to attempt to match new listings in Ohio's Statewide Voter Registration Database with other state and federal databases.  The district court's injunction would have required Secretary Brunner to provide county election boards with lists of newly-registered voters whose information did not did not match perfectly with other government databases.  These matching procedures are known to be subject to numerous types of errors and omissions. Depending upon what individual county boards of elections decided to do with the lists, the decision could have affected a significant portion of the more than 660,000 new voter registrants in the state.  The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an emergency request by Secretary of State Brunner to stay the district court order, leading to Brunner's appeal to the Supreme Court. 

To schedule an interview with a voting rights expert, contact Meg Reilly at mreilly@gloverparkgroup.com or 202-292-6975.



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.


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