Voting Rights Press Release

10.10.02

ACLU of Ohio Files Suit: Ohio Violates Voters Rights Under the 14th Amendment and 1965 Voting Rights Act

Violations Have a Disproportionate Effect on African American Voters

The American Civil Liberties Union will file a class action suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Noon on Friday October 11, 2002 at the Federal District Court, 2 S. Main St., Akron, Ohio. The suit names as defendants county officials in Summit, Montgomery, Hamilton and Sandusky Counties.

The ACLU of Ohio challenges the non-uniform, unequal, and inadequate system of voting in Ohio which violates the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It also alleges that Ohio’s voting system violates the rights of minority voters under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. section 1983.

The ACLU of Ohio has conducted statewide research on this problem, which reveals a strong relationship between the racial composition of a precinct and the percentage of discarded ballots in that precinct.

The suit alleges that statewide, slightly over 94,000 Ohioans had their ballots rejected in the 2000 presidential election. In Summit County, the number of discarded ballots was 7,413, a little over 3% of the total ballots cast there. Ten precincts, including many in the Third Ward on the West side of Akron, experienced discarded ballots at a rate of between 10% and 15%.

The disparities in rates of discarded ballots differ with the type of voting technology used in the different Ohio counties. In Franklin County, which uses “touch-screen” voting technology, the percentage of rejected ballots countywide was one-half of 1%, or six times less than in Summit County. The “touch-screen” technology alerts voters to mistakes – not recording a vote or voting twice in a particular race – before their votes are cast. Voters are able to correct these mistakes before their ballot is submitted electronically.

Summit County uses “punch-card” ballots. This voting technology does not alert voters to mistakes they may have made, nor does it allow voters to correct their mistakes before casting their votes. The only way to correct a voting mistake is to ask the poll worker for a new ballot, and to start over in the voting process.