Voting Rights Press Release

04.21.06

ACLU Victorious in Challenge to Ohio’s Punch Card Ballots

CLEVELAND, OH — Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio Foundation, Inc. and the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project announced victory in its constitutional challenge to the State of Ohio’s use of punch-card ballot voting technology.

In a forty-seven page decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit agreed with the ACLU that Ohio’s use of punch card ballots in some counties but not others violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Sixth Circuit also found that punch card ballots deprive voters of their due process right to have their votes counted accurately. Finally, the Sixth Circuit vacated the District Court’s judgment regarding the ACLU’s claim under the Voting Rights Act and remanded the issue back to that court. That claim involves the ACLU’s contention that the use of punch card ballots in Hamilton, Montgomery, and Summit Counties violates the Voting Rights Act because of their disparate impact on African-American voters.

“For over three years the State of Ohio has been promising new voting equipment, but failing to deliver. This ruling means that the state can no longer drag its feet,” stated Daniel Tokaji who argued the case before the Sixth Circuit. “This ruling also sends a strong message to Ohio and every other state that inequalities in the voting process will no longer be tolerated,” added Tokaji.

The ACLU filed suit in October 2002 in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore. In the 2000 general election, sixty-nine of Ohio’s eighty-eight counties utilized punch-card ballots resulting in thousands of uncounted votes. In its research, the ACLU was able to show Ohio voters using punch-card ballots were four times as likely to not have their votes counted as voters using reliable electronic voting equipment.

In light of today’s decision by the Sixth Circuit, the case will now return to the U.S. District Court in Akron, where

Judge David Dowd ruled against the ACLU in December 2004, for future proceedings regarding the ACLU’s claim under the Voting Rights Act.