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ACLU Asks Court To Allow Rejected Absentee Ballots

ACLU Asks Court To Allow Rejected Absentee Ballot Applications (10/2/2008)

Group Sides With Voters In "Check-Box" Dispute

COLUMBUS, OH – The American Civil Liberties Union and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law filed a friend-of-the-court brief today asking the Ohio Supreme Court to protect voters' rights and allow rejected absentee ballot applications to be processed. The lawsuit was brought by two Hamilton County voters who completed absentee ballot request forms that were rejected because of an unchecked box.

On September 5, 2008, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner issued a memorandum instructing county Boards of Elections not to process absentee ballot request forms that have an unchecked box next to the signature of the voter, declaring him or her to be a qualified elector. The forms with the box were sent to over 1,000,000 Ohio voters by the McCain campaign. The box is not required by Ohio law to be included on the forms.

"This is a clear case of bureaucracy hampering the rights of voters. The rejected forms included all of the information that is required by Ohio law and the box that was left unchecked is not even required to be on absentee ballot request forms. It is unfair to require voters to submit additional forms over meaningless technicalities that could prevent some from casting ballots," said Carrie Davis, staff counsel with the ACLU of Ohio.

Over 1,500 absentee ballot request forms were rejected in Hamilton County alone, with thousands more voters affected throughout the state. Secretary Brunner requested that county Boards of Elections contact all affected voters to inform them they need to complete another form.

"With thousands of voters affected across the state, it will be difficult for Boards of Elections to contact each person directly. There will likely be people who do not know their application was rejected, find out too late, cannot access another form easily or become disillusioned with the process and won't cast a ballot," said Meredith Bell-Platts, staff counsel with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. "This type of political maneuvering presents an undue burden on voters and violates their constitutional rights."

"County Boards of Elections would require a great deal of resources to contact the thousands of voters whose applications were unfairly rejected. This will expend precious time and resources on a bureaucratic issue, while Boards of Elections should be preparing to make sure Election Day is run as smoothly as possible. The court should do the right thing and order these applications to be processed," Davis added.


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