Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Secretary of State Brunner has Voters' Backs

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner issued a directive to all 88 county boards of elections in Ohio regarding diaqualification of voters. Over the last week there has been a lot of worry among Democrats that up hundreds of thousands of voters could find their eligibility to vote challenged under a section of Ohio law.

In 2006, the Ohio General Assembly passed a law that requires all local board of elections to send out a notice to all registered voters 60 days prior to the November election. The notice cannot be forwarded. The fear was that if the notices came back, then GOP operatives could challenge these voters when they showed up to vote and require them to vote a provisional ballot. Many Democrats and others saw this as a potential GOP "vote caging" operation.

This is how Brunner's office described the potential effect of the notice in its media release on her directive:

Facts about the 60-day notice of election:

Under Ohio law, county boards of elections must mail a nonforwardable “notice of election” 60 days before November 4, 2008, that is, on September 5, 2008. This mailing is required to be sent today, the day Brunner has released her directive to boards of elections. If the notice is returned for any reason, boards must note this fact in the poll book or on poll lists and require a voter to prove with ID or other information that he or she is qualified to vote a regular ballot. Otherwise, such a voter must vote provisionally placing the right to have that ballot counted in jeopardy.

Since the 60-day notice is not forwardable, the notice may be returned for simple and irrelevant reasons like a hold on a voter’s mail during a vacation; a data entry error at the board of elections; or a mail delivery error.

Brunner's directive to the local BOEs spells out that such challenges are not to be honored. Her directive is based both on the Federal National Voter Registration Act, (NVRA), and the Due Process Clause of the United States and Ohio Constitutions.

This is just another example of the big difference in having Jennifer Brunner as Secretary of State compared to some hack Republican or conservative ideologue like Kenneth Blackwell. Indeed, a fact that few in the media have bothered to comment on is that this is the first presidential election since 1988 in which the Secretary of State for Ohio is a Democrat. In a very close election, as this one is shaping up to be, that is a very big deal.

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