Dan Tokaji's Blog
Professor Dan Tokaji
Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities

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Equal Vote
Tuesday, June 6
 
VR Issues in Florida & Ohio (Where Else?)
An emerging issue in election administration is the adoption of state laws that make it more difficult for non-party organizations to conduct voter registration. This development is a product of alleged problems during the 2004 election season with phony registration forms being turned in by some groups.

In Ohio, the League of Women Voters, Brennan Center, Common Cause and other groups are criticizing proposed rules that Secretary of State Blackwell's office has promulgated, to implement the state's recently passed omnibus election bill, House Bill 3. The Brennan Center's letter opposing the proposed rules is here, and the Columbus Dispatch and Cleveland Plain-Dealer have reports on yesterday's hearing.

In a nutshell, these groups allege that the proposed rules would force each individual registering voters to hand-deliver completed forms directly to the Secretary of State's office or county board of elections, on pain of criminal penalties. That means for example, that ten individuals working with a group conducting registration -- say ACORN or the League -- wouldn't be able to bring all their forms back to the group's office, and have one person return the forms collected by all ten. Instead, each of the ten would have to bring the registrations he or she collected. Also, the Secretary of State's rules would apparently foreclose the forms from being mailed back. They'd have to be hand-delivered directly by the individual who collected them.

The Plain-Dealer also reports on a lawsuit that the Brennan Center filed in Florida last month on behalf of the League, regarding that state's recently passed voter registration law (Fla. Laws 2005-277, Secs. 2 and 7) . See this press release. The law would impose a a $250 fine for each registration form submitted more than 10 days late, and a $500 fine if submitted after the deadline. If a form isn't submitted at all, the fine is $5,000. The Florida League says it was forced to cease all its registration efforts as a result of those rules -- given that its annual budget is only $80,000, a few mistakes could quickly put it out of business. Not a bad way of discouraging voter registration efforts, if that's your goal.

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