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Commentary

Ohio's ID Rules in the Appeals Court: What Next?

Given the Ohio AG’s professed willingness to compromise, one wonders whether it would be acceptable to both sides if the Sixth Circuit court of appeals vacated the district court’s suspension of the ID rules applicable to absentee voting, subject to the following exceptions and conditions: first, the county boards of election are required to preserve all absentee ballots ruled ineligible for counting for lack of proper ID until further notice of the district court; second, no absentee ballot may be ruled ineligible for counting on the ground that the ID provided with it is the larger number that appears in the upper right-hand corner of an Ohio driver’s license (associated with the photograph on the license) rather than the smaller number on the left underneath the words “LICENSE NO”; third, no absentee ballot may be ruled ineligible for counting for lack of proper ID if the ballot is submitted with “current utility bill” or “other government document” that conforms to the definitions of those terms contained in Secretary of State Directive 2006-78 (October 26, 2006); fourth, no absentee ballot may be ruled ineligible for counting for lack of proper ID if it was submitted in person to a county board of election, or postmarked for mailing by the U.S. Postal Service, during the time in which the district court’s orders were in effect; fifth, in all other respects, the county boards of elections are reminded of their obligation to enforce uniformly and consistently the ID rules applicable to absentee voting enacted by the General Assembly and implemented by the Directives of the Secretary of State’s Office, including those provisions that specify that a military ID must contain a current address in order to qualify (even if military IDs are not issued in this form), and that evidence showing unequal, discriminatory, or inconsistent enforcement of these ID rules may be considered in further proceedings in the district court. In thinking about this kind of compromise, however, one wonders whether it is too complicated to be implemented at this point, even if it would have been preferable had the district court initially issued a ruling along these lines. In other words, going forward, it might be better for the Sixth Circuit simply to leave in place the district court’s complete suspension of the ID rules applicable to absentee voting, even assuming the Sixth Circuit believes that complete suspension to have been improper. Although the Sixth Circuit might not wish to reward a district court for excessive intervention into the state’s electoral process, especially so close to Election Day, the appellate court nonetheless needs to consider the countervailing costs if its own decision were to change the applicable rules for this election again—and were to do so in a way that makes the rules even more complex. If the Sixth Circuit does reach this conclusion, refusing to stay or vacate the district court’s orders solely to avoid the harms associated with last minute on-again-off-again changes in the electoral rules, perhaps it will wish nonetheless to send the district court a signal to tread a bit more carefully and narrowly next time.

Edward B. Foley is Director of the Election Law @ Moritz program. His primary area of current research concerns the resolution of disputed elections. Having published several law journal articles on this topic, he is currently writing a book on the history of disputed elections in the United States. He is also serving as Reporter for the American Law Institute's new Election Law project. Professor Foley's "Free & Fair" is a collection of his writings that he has penned for Election Law @ Moritz. View Complete Profile

Commentary

Daniel P. Tokaji

What's the Matter with Kobach?

Daniel P. Tokaji

By "Kobach," I mean the Kobach v. EAC case in which the Tenth Circuit heard oral argument Monday – rather than its lead plaintiff, Kansas’ controversial Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who argued the position of his state and the State of Arizona. This post discusses what’s at issue in the case, where the district court went wrong, and what the Tenth Circuit should do.

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In the News

Daniel P. Tokaji

Ohio treasurer receives OK to host town halls

Professor Daniel Tokaji was quoted in an article from the Associated Press about an attorney general opinion that allows the Ohio treasurer to conduct telephone town halls using public money. The opinion will likely have broad ramifications for the upcoming elections, Tokaji said.

“As a practical matter, while that legal advice is certainly right, very serious concerns can arise about whether these are really intended to inform Ohio constituents about the operations of his office or if they’re campaign events,” he said.

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Info & Analysis

Judge Denies Motion for Preliminary Injunction in NC Case

U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder denied the motion for a preliminary injunction sought by the plaintiffs in a case challenging a new North Carolina voting law as violating the Voting Rights Act and the federal Constitution. Judge Schroeder also denied the defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings. The case is North Carolina NAACP v. McCrory.

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