For Immediate Release
Brennan Center: If Joe the Plumber Was a New Voter, Ohio Ruling Could Block Him From Voting
WASHINGTON - We heard a lot last night
about Joe the Plumber, but did you know that a recent court ruling last
night threatens the ability of thousands like Joe to have their votes
counted? According to today's Toledo Blade, he is Joe Wurzelbacher of Shrewsbury Street in Springfield Township in Lucas County, Ohio.
As the Blade notes,
many thought Joe was not a registered voter. Turns out there was likely
a misspelling in the Lucas County Board of Elections database. From the
Blade: "Linda Howe, executive director of the Lucas County Board of
Elections, said a Samuel Joseph Worzelbacher, whose address and age
match Joe the Plumber's, registered in Lucas County on Sept. 10, 1992.
He voted in his first primary on March 4, 2008, registering as a
Republican. Ms. Howe said that the name may be misspelled in the
Ben Smith makes the connection that if Joe registered this year, he
could be purged from the rolls under a 6th Circuit Court ruling on
That's because on Tuesday, following a lawsuit by the Ohio republican
party, the court ordered Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to
disclose to local election officials the names of 200,000 new
registrants whose names didn't match with state motor vehicle or
federal Social Security databases. This list could be used by local
election officials and party operatives to prevent these voters from
casting ballots that will count. As Secretary Brunner knows and the
Brennan Center demonstrated in the brief, almost all mis-matches are
the result of typos and administrative errors--like in Joe's case.
The Brennan Center is urging Ohio's election officials to take
immediate steps to ensure that a failed match standing alone does not
result in a voter being purged from the voter rolls, challenged at the
polls, or forced to cast a provisional ballot that may not be counted.
Secretary Brunner is vigorously opposing this ruling and has asked the Supreme Court to block it.
"To save tens of thousands like Joe from disenfranchisement by typo,
Ohio election officials need to make clear that no voter will be denied
registration, removed from the voter rolls, challenged at the polls or
relegated to voting a provisional ballot solely because of a failed
computer match, unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the
voter is not eligible," said Wendy Weiser, Deputy Director of the
Democracy Program at the Brennan Center and author of Making the List,
a study of the perils of voter database matching.
The unreliability of the matching process has been repeatedly proved.
After Florida implemented new matching rules on September 8th of this
year, approximately 15% of all attempted matches failed; upon
investigation, the vast majority of these failed matches have since
been determined to be the result of typos and similar errors. A
detailed audit of failed matches in New York City in September 2004
similarly found that more than 80% of failed matches were caused by
errors by election officials in processing voters' applications-almost
all the others were caused by immaterial mistakes by voters, like
writing their drivers license number in the Social Security field.
Across the country, match failure rates have ranged from 15%-30%. In
Ohio, there were more than 200,000 failed matches out of 660,000 voter
registrations this year.
"Both candidates went out of their way for Joe the Plumber last night.
The least Ohio can do is make sure that Joe and people like him are
able to vote and have their votes counted," concluded Weiser.
"One purported remedy, voting with a provisional ballot, is no remedy
at all. A very high proportion are not counted. Worse, forcing tens of
thousands of Ohio voters to cast provisional ballots will create
needless chaos at the polling place on Election Day," said Michael
Waldman, Executive Director of the Brennan Center.
"Joe the Plummer is not committing voter fraud, and neither are the
hundreds of thousands of other voters who would be kicked off by this
misguided effort to suppress the vote," said Waldman.
Brennan Center on the web: http://www.brennancenter.org/