Voting Rights

ACLU of Ohio Voting Rights Litigation


For nearly a decade, the ACLU of Ohio has defended the rights of voters to adequate voting equipment, fair registration and voting procedures, and secure ballot counting.

2008 Election

Several lawsuits were filed in September and October 2008 relating to the so-called “5-day window” during which someone can register and immediately request or cast an absentee ballot. While these cases began as a challenge to same-day registration, they evolved into a bigger challenge to the rights of all newly registered voters.

  • State ex rel. Colvin v. Brunner– Two registered voters filed suit against Secretary Brunner asking the Ohio Supreme Court to reject same-day registration and voting.
  • Project Vote v. Madison County Board of Elections: The ACLU, representing voters and voter outreach groups, filed suit against Madison County and Secretary Brunner, asking the court to declare that new voters should not be subjected to “waiting periods” or threats of prosecution for voting early.
  • Ohio Republican Party v. Brunner(Southern District Ohio federal court) – After the ACLU filed suit in the Northern District, the Ohio Republican Party (ORP) filed suit against Secretary Brunner in the Southern District alleging that a number of her directives violated federal laws.
    • ORP asked the district court for a TRO to prohibit same-day registration. Read the ACLU’s amicus brief opposing ORP’s request and asking the court to not impose a “waiting period” on new voters.
    • Read the district court’s Sept. 30, 2008 order abstaining from ruling on same-day registration in light of the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision.
    • ORP then filed a renewed TRO motion alleging that Secretary Brunner violated the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) by not properly verifying new registrations against computer databases. ORP asked the court to order Brunner to re-process all voters who registered since January 1, 2008. Read the ACLU’s amicus brief opposing ORP’s request on the grounds that ORP’s proposed computer matching was unreliable and not required by HAVA, and that potentially removing voters in this manner would violate federal voting rights law.
    • Read the District Court’s order granting the TRO.
    • Secretary Brunner appealed the TRO to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Read the ACLU’s amicus brief urging the 6th Circuit to vacate the TRO.
    • Read the Sixth Circuit’s October 10th opinion granting Brunner’s motion to stay the district court’s October 9th order.
    • On October 14, the full Sixth Circuit, sitting en banc reinstated the district court’s TRO.  Read the decision.
    • Brunner has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the en banc Sixth Circuit Decision.  Read the application for a stay of the Temporary Restraining Order.
    • On October 17, the ACLU of Ohio and ACLU Voting Rights Project filed an amicus brief in the U. S. Supreme Court, in support of Secretary Brunner’s request to overturn the Sixth Circuit Court’s decision. Read the amicus brief.
    • On October 17, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the stay and vacated the TRO.  Read the decision.

State ex rel. Myles v. Brunner

The McCain presidential campaign sent absentee ballot request forms to roughly one million Ohio voters. Secretary of State Brunner instructed boards of elections to reject any forms where the voter failed to check a box next to a statement that they are an eligible elector. Voters who received the McCain mailers and had their absentee ballot requests rejected filed suit in the Ohio Supreme Court. The ACLU, together with other voting rights advocates, filed an amicus brief opposing Brunner’s position as one of form over substance. Ohio law requires the request to contain certain information but does not have to be in any specific format.

ACLU v. Brunner

In April 2008, the ACLU of Ohio was victorious in a lawsuit challenging the return to non-notice technology in Ohio. Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner proposed the switch in December 2007, mere months before the March 2008 primary. The ACLU challenged these systems as unconstitutional because without notice, votes, particularly those in African American communities, are uncounted because of mistakes on the ballot. In light of new legislation outlawing the type of non-notice voting technology used in Cuyahoga County, the State filed an agreement not to use any type of non-notice technology.

Read the 02/10/2008 case update.

Read our 01/28/2008 press release announcing the filing of a Motion for Preliminary Injunction.

Read the documents submitted with the Motion.

Read our 01/24/2008 press release.

Read the 01/22/2008 OAEO Statement.

Read our 01/17/2008 press release announcing the lawsuit.

Read the complaint.

Read our 01/03/2008 press release.

Read our 12/27/2007 press release.

Read our 12/17/2007 press release.

Read the letter presented to the Cuyahoga Board of County Commissioners at their January 3, 2008 meeting.

Read the ACLU of Ohio’s December 27, 2007 letter to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections and Secretary of State Brunner.

Read the December 17, 2007 testimony provided by ACLU of Ohio Board Member Daniel Tokaji.

Read the December 10, 2007 letter the national ACLU Voting Rights Project sent to Secretary of State Brunner and the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.

Boustani v. Blackwell

On October 4, 2006, the ACLU of Ohio and other voting rights groups prevailed in this important lawsuit. The groups challenged a provision that would have allowed poll workers to inquire if a voter is a naturalized citizen and require those voters to provide proof that they were naturalized. The law singled out one group of U.S. citizens and placed an unfair burden on them to cast their ballot.

Read the 08.29.06 press release.

Read the 02.01.06 press release.

Read the complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief.

Read the court decision.

Read the court opinion and order.

Stewart v. Blackwell

The ACLU sued the State of Ohio 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 deprived voters of the equal protection of the law and the right to due process. Statistics show that voters in counties that use punch-card systems are more likely to be African-American and/or indigent.

Read the 04.21.06 press release.

Read the 12.05.05 press release.

Read the 07.23.04 press release.

Read the 10.10.02 press release.

Read the complaint.