Court curbs move to exclude votersWritten by Teresa Fedor | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Recently, the Ohio Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, dealt a serious blow to Ohio Republican efforts to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters and at the same time vindicated Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner’s efforts to ensure all Ohioans have equal access to the polls. The Republican-dominated Supreme Court proved to be a check on Republican efforts to cause voter confusion with frivolous lawsuits. Additionally, U.S. Northern District Judge James S. Gwin ruled Brunner was properly upholding Ohio election laws in stating the Republican position “would lead to illogical results, potentially disenfranchising large numbers of voters.”
In issuing this ruling, the courts have clearly rebuked the Ohio Republican Party for employing blatantly partisan tactics toward Brunner. With the presidential election fast approaching, Ohio Republicans have been ramping up their attacks on Brunner daily. Such attacks have led to accusations of Brunner attempting to disenfranchise voters and allegations that she has and will continue to break state election laws unless stopped. This is the same Republican Party that purposefully challenged thousands of voters in 2004 based solely on undeliverable pre-election mailings and wanted to void new voter registrations not printed on 80-pound paper. The courts have unveiled this blatant Republican hypocrisy.
This issue of same-day absentee voting has appeared to enrage Republicans. Secretary Brunner’s directive instructed local boards of election that, during the five-day overlap between the end of voter registration and the beginning of absentee voting, newly registered voters should be provided absentee voting ballots if requested. In response, Republicans engineered lawsuits in a poor attempt to question Brunner’s directive and to make the case that Brunner’s effort to guarantee more Ohioans access to voting is somehow illegal. Despite challenging Brunner’s directive, it was reported by the Associated Press on Sept. 29, that the GOP’s own Web site was encouraging their voters to take full advantage of the five-day overlap to register and cast an absentee ballot. Apparently, Republican hypocrisy knows no bounds.
Two courts validated Brunner’s interpretation of the law to favor voter’s rights. I am not alone in my perspective on this dispute. When asked about the Republican’s lawsuit against Brunner, election-law expert and associate director of election law at The Ohio State University’s Mortiz College of Law, Daniel P. Tokaji, commented, “Brunner’s interpretation of Ohio law is precisely correct, and the Republican’s position by contrast is in direct conflict with the laws they have passed and in conflict with federal voting rights laws.”
If the Republican’s reading of the law were upheld, there is no doubt that a large segment of the potential voters would be prevented from voting — directly in opposition to the ultimate goal of no-fault absentee voting. In responding to a question about the possible motivation behind the Republican’s law suit against Brunner, Tokaji stated, “This is voter suppression in as naked a form as we’ve seen in Ohio for years Republicans are trying to manipulate the court to their own partisan ends.”
The fact remains that the no-fault absentee voter law in question was in effect during the 2006 primary and general elections and during that time, Republicans never raised concern regarding the registration overlap. The purpose of this law was to make the voting process easier and more accessible to all Ohioans. In fact, no- fault absentee voting was introduced by Republican legislators and signed into law by the former Republican governor, Bob Taft.
I am proud of the Ohio Supreme Court for seeing the Republican lawsuit as frivolous, designed to cause elector confusion. Such Republican lawsuits represent a step back from voter inclusion and a step toward blatant voter suppression. Such attempts leave one question yet to be answered: Why are Republicans so afraid of fair and open elections?
Teresa Fedor (D) of Toledo serves in the Ohio Senate. She may be contacted at (614) 466-5204.