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, November 4
 
Jockeying for Position in Ohio
The Ohio Republican Party today filed an amended complaint in its case against Secretary of State Brunner (Ohio Republican Party v. Brunner). This is the same case that the ORP earlier used as a vehicle for its arguments regarding the window for early registration and absentee voting, observers at in-person absentee voting sites, and mismatched voter information. The ORP previously got court orders against Brunner's actions regarding observers and mismatches, only to have those orders reversed on appeal. [Disclosure: I joined amicus briefs on behalf of voting and civil rights groups supporting the Secretary of State's position and opposing that taken by the ORP on the window and matching issues.]

The new amended complaint in ORP is similar to its prior complaint, but appears to include new allegations regarding the discretion vested in county boards of election when it comes to counting votes. The apparent claim is that this discretion leads to the unequal treatment of voters from county to county. Presumably, this claim would rely in part on the Bush v. Gore decision, arguing that such inter-county disparities violate equal protection.

I suspect that the real purpose of this lawsuit is to serve as a placeholder, in the event that Ohio turns out to be close enough to litigate. The district judge assigned to the case, Judge Smith, is a Reagan appointee who has been quite sympathetic to the ORP's position in its prior motions. Thus, the ORP might well want to have post-election disputes steered toward his courtroom.

Now things get really interesting: I've just learned that the Secretary of State has countered by moving to have the ORP's case consolidated with an earlier pending case, Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless v. Brunner (NEOCH). You can find the Secretry of State's motion here. The NEOCH case concerns Ohio's provisional voting and identification laws, and is pending before Judge Marbley, a Clinton appointee.

The Secretary of State's motion to consolidate notes that one of the directives that the ORP now seeks to challenge through its case is Directive 2008-101. That directive was issued on October 24, to resolve some of the issues in the NEOCH case pertaining to the counting of provisional ballots -- see this order in NEOCH, adopting and annexing the directive. To the extent that the ORP seeks to challenge Directive 2008-101, as paragraph 35 of its complaint indicates, this is quite clearly part of the NEOCH case.

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Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University