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Ohio Asks US Supreme Court To Protect Voter Rights

For Immediate Release October 16, 2008

Secretary Brunner Appeals To US Supreme Court To Protect Ohioans’ Voting Rights

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has asked the United States Supreme Court to protect the voting rights of an estimated 200,000 Ohioans. Because of a politically-motivated lawsuit, eligible Ohio voters could be forced to use provisional ballots if a lower court’s divided decision stands.

“I have appealed to the US Supreme Court because no eligible Ohio voter should be forced to use a provisional ballot, which is subject to partisan attacks and legal wrangling after Election Day. Ohioans who have followed the law and simply want to exercise their right to vote should not be penalized because of a database error,” Secretary Brunner said.

Based on preliminary estimates, as many as 200,000 Ohio voters could be impacted by the Ohio Republican Party’s lawsuit where the Secretary was denied the right to offer evidence but overturned for the failure to do it. The Secretary of State was denied the opportunity to show that some voter’s mismatched information is making them simply victims of database errors. These errors include data entry mistakes and unnecessary software code that have no impact on an Ohioan's right to vote.

“This database was never intended to be a litmus test for an Ohioans’ right to vote. If it were, Joe the Plumber and Ohio House Speaker Jon Husted – who are both technically ‘mismatches’ in this database – would have to use provisional ballots on Election Day. Ohio’s bipartisan elections officials have multi-layered systems to catch voter registration fraud and prevent illegal voting," Secretary Brunner noted.

The Ohio Republican Party originally filed suit just as Ohioans began absentee voting in 2008. However, Ohio’s statewide voter registration database was created under the previous Secretary of State. It has been used in its current form in every election since the 2006 general election, including the 2008 March primary. The Ohio GOP lawsuit was originally filed because of poor wording in a technical voter database manual.

The Help America Vote Act was enacted to protect the voting rights of all Americans, not to deny eligible voters their basic right to vote. Nothing in Ohio law permits the use of BMV information to determine voter eligibility. Instead, Ohio law requires boards of elections to use an array of multi-layered systems to confirm every new or updated voter registration. Even as she appeals to the Supreme Court to protect eligible voters from provisional balloting, Secretary Brunner has continued to work with Ohio’s bipartisan boards of elections to craft a solution that makes HAVA mismatches more easily accessible. She has stated that before rashly changing a system that has been functioning as required under federal law, the Secretary of State's office needs the input and support of Ohio's bipartisan boards of elections to craft a solution that meets important key metrics:

• Creates uniform processes for all 88 counties to properly utilize information about mismatches.
• Protects voters from purges based on a mismatch, because that is illegal.
• Protects boards from litigation by ensuring compliance with the NVRA, which does not allow systematic purges within 90 days of a federal election.

Once this solution has been crafted, Secretary Brunner will implement an upgrade to the voter query system and will issue instructions to guide counties in their use of this information.

ENDS

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