ACLU Warns Officials Hasty Election Changes May Disenfranchise More Voters
CLEVELAND–Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio cautioned elections officials that making drastic changes to voting technologies could inadvertently disenfranchise more Ohio voters in the upcoming 2008 elections. In December 2007, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner issued a report outlining some of the security shortcomings of Ohio’s voting system. In addition, Brunner issued specific recommendations that the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections adopt central count optical scan technology in place of its current system.
At the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections’ Dec. 17, 2007 meeting, ACLU of Ohio board member Daniel Tokaji offered testimony pointing out that the use of such technology may contribute to votes being lost due to overvoting and undervoting, particularly in communities with people of color. This directly ties in with claims the ACLU of Ohio made in its case, Stewart v. Blackwell.
Toakaji said, “While the concerns Secretary of State Brunner outlined in her report should be carefully considered, the recommendations to switch technologies only months before the March primary could have disastrous effects.”
The ACLU of Ohio filed suit against Ohio in Stewart v. Blackwell after the 2000 presidential election exposed several constitutional and statutory violations in the process by which elections were conducted in several Ohio counties. Disparities between punch-card and optical scanning and/or touch screen systems arbitrarily deprive voters of the equal protection of the law and the right to due process. The ACLU of Ohio won the case in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, but it was then declared moot because the state had changed voting technology.
Tokaji concluded, “Ohio has very real concerns with the upcoming 2008 elections, but changing technologies to a method that has been proven to disenfranchise voters is not an adequate solution. Elections officials should focus on the human element, including training and procedures for those at the polls, in order to best impact elections.”