ACLU Asks Court To Allow All Ohio Registered Voters Access To Absentee Ballots
Group Files Lawsuit To Protect Newly Registered Ohioans' Voting Rights
CLEVELAND - The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit late
yesterday challenging an Ohio county that is denying absentee ballots to newly
registered voters in violation of directives issued by Secretary of State
Jennifer Brunner. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the
Northern District of Ohio on behalf of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the
Homeless (NEOCH), 1Matters, Project Vote and two individual voters.
"If newly-registered voters are prevented from casting absentee ballots in
person or by mail, thousands of Ohio voters will be disenfranchised. Many
people, including students who only recently became old enough to vote, need to
have access to absentee ballots because they may attend school in a different
county or state, but still reside at their home address," said ACLU of Ohio
Staff Counsel Carrie Davis.
The situation began as a result of Secretary Brunner's August 13, 2008
directive requesting that local Boards of Elections prepare for people who wish
to register and vote during a five day overlap in voter registration deadlines
and the beginning of absentee balloting. According to state law, a voter must be
registered to vote 30 days before the date of the election, and absentee
balloting begins 35 days before the election. The Board of Elections in Madison
County stated it will only provide absentee ballots to voters who have been
registered more than 30 days before the date they requested an absentee ballot,
rather than 30 days before Election Day. The issue is also currently before the
Ohio Supreme Court in the case Ohio v. Brunner, and the ACLU filed a
friend-of-the-court brief in support of Secretary Brunner's position earlier
"All voters should have equal access to the ballot box. According to the
decisions by these county Boards of Elections, voters who registered close to
the 30 day deadline would be unable to apply for a timely absentee ballot," said
Meredith Bell-Platts, staff counsel with the ACLU Voting Rights Project.
"Treating one group of voters differently than another is clearly
unconstitutional and violates numerous federal statutes."
The complaint also asks that Secretary Brunner take all steps necessary to
ensure that voters will be able to request, receive and submit an absentee
ballot upon their registration.
NEOCH, 1Matters and Project Vote are non-profit, nonpartisan organizations.
NEOCH and 1Matters provide services to homeless Ohioans and are planning to help
thousands register and cast absentee ballots in this election. Project Vote
provides technical assistance and direct service to the civic participation
community, encouraging voter education and engagement. The two individual voters
are Sherie Penix and Daniel Robert George. Penix is a voter in Madison County
who wishes to register and cast an absentee ballot. George is a volunteer in
Cleveland who drives homeless and elderly voters to the county Board of
Elections to register and cast absentee ballots.
"Political maneuvering should not block Ohioans' access to the ballot box.
These registrations and ballots will be vetted like any other person's would be.
Hopefully, the court will act to protect these voters' rights and halt any
further partisan challenges," Davis added.
A copy of today's complaint and other legal documents are available online
More information on the ACLU Voting Rights Project's work is available at: www.votingrights.org
More information on the ACLU of Ohio is available at: www.acluohio.org