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The Washington Post

Ohio Files Appeal to Supreme Court on Voter Registration Data

Mary Pat Flaherty

Experts say a federal order in an election-law suit could result in the casting of more provisional ballots. Jennifer Brunner, Ohio’s secretary of state, has fought the suit. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Ohio's attorney general filed an emergency appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court late Wednesday night seeking to block a lower court decision that could cost many thousands of Ohio voters a chance to cast a regular ballot Nov. 4.

The battleground state already has become the setting for a series of lawsuits over voter eligibility. About 660,000 new voters have registered since January with an edge to Democrats.

The filing on behalf of Ohio's Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner contends that upholding a Tuesday decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit would create havoc on Election Day and cause many voters to cast "provisional" ballots that may or may not ultimately be tallied depending on judgments by local elections boards.

Ohio Republicans have been battling Brunner, contending the state system for verifying voter registration information is difficult for local officials to use in gleaning lists of individuals whose information contains a discrepancy. Those voters could be challenged about their eligibility to cast a regular ballot Nov. 4 and receive a provisional ballot instead that would be counted only if a voter's eligibility later was established.

The 6th Circuit on Tuesday had directed Brunner to give local elections officials ready and direct access by Friday to computerized lists of new voters whose registrations do not match state driver records or Social Security information. A 2002 federal law required states to create a statewide database of voter registration information and to verify new voter information by crossmatching it with the other public records.

Ohio counties do not have an easy way to view their mismatches in the current system, court testimony had shown.

Brunner had said adapting Ohio's voter registration system to accomplish that change would require a few days of work on software programming at a time when a surge of voter registrations also are arriving.

Yet her office had indicated it would comply.

State Republican Party Deputy Chairman Kevin DeWine said the Supreme Court appeal was "stunning in its attempt to defy the law."

The Republican Party has raised alarms about voter registration drives in Ohio and other states by ACORN, an advocacy group for low-income people. Some registration cards the group submitted in Ohio contained bogus names, incorrect addresses and duplications. The extent of the problem is under review by several counties.

The problems that have arisen, the Ohio GOP said, drive their interest in having county elections boards get easier access to mismatched voter records to separate data errors from fraudulent files.

However Democrats, including the Obama campaign's chief counsel, Bob Bauer, said this week that the protests over ACORN were an attempt to winnow voter rolls in states where Republicans feel threatened and to discourage new voters from casting ballots.


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