CLEVELAND – In order to protect the integrity of Ohio’s elections, the American Civil Liberties Union today called on the Ohio Republican Party to stop intimidating lawful voters. On Wednesday, the party asked all of the state’s 88 county Boards of Elections to hand over information about all newly registered voters and those who have legally registered and cast an absentee ballot on the same day. These records will likely be used to challenge innocent voters, according to the ACLU.
“We all deserve better than a system that’s tainted by partisan maneuvering – by any party - in the weeks before a hotly contested election,” said Carrie Davis, staff counsel with the ACLU of Ohio. “The Ohio Republican Party ought to stop harassing innocent voters. First they challenged newly registered voters' right to vote absentee, and now, after the courts turned them down, the party is continuing to imply wrongdoing by undertaking a sweeping investigation of legitimate voters for simply having the nerve to lawfully cast a ballot. Voting is a right. It should not be treated as a crime.”
The Ohio Supreme Court and U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio ruled on September 29, 2008 that same-day registration and voting during the five day window is legal under Ohio law. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio declined to stop the program subsequent to the Ohio Supreme Court’s ruling. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the five day window as well.
Last week, officials in Greene County sought similar information from the county’s Board of Elections. Citing a complete lack of evidence of “voter fraud,” the ACLU sent a letter in opposition to the request and it was subsequently withdrawn.
“Voter suppression by any other name is still the same. It is un-American to intimidate voters and make more people afraid of participating in the political process,” said Meredith Bell-Platts, staff counsel with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “This is a part of a broad effort to use bogus claims of ‘voter fraud’ to remove eligible voters from the rolls and challenge them at the polls. We should be expanding and protecting the right to vote, not threatening it.”