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Wilms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-07-05 03:21 AM
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Judge allows lawsuit challenging adequacy of Ohio election system
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Edited on Wed Dec-07-05 03:31 AM by Wilms

Allows Historic Voting Rights Action to Proceed - Warning Bell in Ohio

Warning Bell in Ohio

Tova Andrea Wang
The Century Foundation

A federal court in Ohio has just issued a decision that has potentially enormous significance for elections all over the country. In The League of Women Voters et al. v. Blackwell, a federal judge denied a motion to dismiss by the Governor and Secretary of State. Instead, he ruled that if the League and other voting rights organizations can demonstrate there were systemic breakdowns in the election system that led to widely disparate levels of voting access throughout the state in 2004 (and for over three decades before that), the state likely violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.

Judge James G. Carr writes,

"Put simply, LWV contends that defendants election system provides different voting rights to different citizens based solely on where those citizens happen to reside and vote. Some citizens get short lines, properly functioning voting machines, well trained and informed poll workers, accurate registration information, and the opportunity to cast unencumbered absentee or proper provisional ballots.
Other citizens, due to the vagaries of residence and registration, encounter long lines, defective voting machines, ill-trained and uninformed poll workers, inaccurate registration information, and absentee or provisional ballots that are ultimately deemed invalid.
If LWVs allegations are well founded, defendants may be depriving citizens of the franchise depending on where they live in violation of the equal protection clause."

What makes this case all the more interesting is that the judge found that the Governor and Secretary of State were the proper defendants in the action. In other words, those at the top will be held responsible for ensuring that our democracy is equally accessible to all votersregardless of race, ethnicity, and yes, where they happen to live.
It also shows that no matter how many laws the federal or state government passes, if elections officials implement them in a wrongful or incompetent manner, true election reform can never have real meaning.


Court Allows Historic Voting Rights Action to Proceed against Ohio Governor and Secretary of State; Non-Partisan Lawsuit Seeks to Redress Constitutional Defects in the Ohio Elections

December 05, 2005

The court specifically rejected arguments by the defendants that state officials are not responsible to protect voters' rights in Ohio. The court stated that even "inaction that diminishes the right to vote" may be unconstitutional
under the Equal Protection Clause and that state officials "cannot adopt policies leading to disparate treatment of those voters and thereafter plead 'no control' as a defense." The court held that if the defendants acted with "deliberate indifference" and that indifference resulted in injury to the voters, the state defendants would be in violation of the Due Process Clause. The court dismissed as premature one statutory count under the Help America Vote Act. The court has set the case for trial in June 2006.

The lawsuit does not challenge the results of any past elections. Instead, it seeks to protect the rights of Ohio voters in future elections.
Filed originally in federal court in Toledo on July 28, 2005, the complaint chronicles deficiencies over more than three decades, including widespread problems with the voter registration system, the absentee and provisional ballot processes, the training of poll workers, the organization of polling places and precincts, and the allocation of voting machines. The lawsuit seeks to compel the state defendants to carry out their duties to protect the fundamental right to vote in time for the November 2006 general election. The relief sought would require the state defendants to exercise their authority to repair the problems at all stages of the Ohio elections process. This will include removing the burdens that disenfranchise Ohio voters and, as a practical matter, make the ability to vote vary widely from county to county.


Judge allows lawsuit challenging adequacy of Ohio election system

Associated Press

TOLEDO, Ohio -

Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell and Gov. Bob Taft had sought to dismiss the complaint, saying it should be directed at individual counties with election problems. The lawsuit also names Blackwell's predecessors dating back to the 1970s, including Taft.

"There is no question that LWV (the League) has alleged actionable constitutional violations," Toledo-based U.S. District Judge James Carr wrote on Friday, rejecting the request. "What remains is whether Secretary Blackwell and Gov. Taft are legally responsible for those violations."

Carr also refused to move the lawsuit to the Columbus court from Toledo.

Carr did throw out one claim that the state is not meeting requirements of the federal law meant to make voting easier. Ohio has until next month to comply, and the last 44 of the 88 counties expect new voting machines this month, Blackwell spokeswoman Carlo LoParo said.


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