Republicans Challenge Registrations in Ohio, Nevada, and Wisconsin
A U.S. District Court judge yesterday effectively ended efforts by Republicans in Ohio to challenge the eligibility of tens of thousands of voters in one of the most closely contested states in this year’s presidential race. Judge Susan J. Dlott in Cincinnati issued an order preventing local election boards from going forward with plans to notify challenged voters and hold hearings until she hears legal arguments tomorrow. But because her ruling means that those election board hearings cannot take place within the time frame state law requires before the election, Dlott’s ruling killed the GOP effort that had targeted 35,000 voters, Democratic and Republican party officials said.
David Sullivan, director of the Democratic Party’s Voter Protection Program in Ohio, praised the ruling and said the GOP was never able to offer proof that the challenged voters are ineligible. “The Republican assault on tens of thousands of Ohio voters was an unprecedented effort to intimidate voters, especially minorities, but it has backfired,” he said. Mark Weaver, a lawyer for the Ohio Republican Party, said yesterday’s ruling does not prevent the party from going forward with plans to place 3,400 monitors in polling places, particularly in heavily Democratic urban areas. The challenges will take place Tuesday instead of being decided beforehand, he said.
States allow political parties to monitor polls and challenge voters’ eligibility. In Ohio, the challenge is considered by a bipartisan election board. “The ironic twist here is that now there will be longer lines [at the polls] because questions about voter eligibility will have to be decided on Election Day, rather than ahead of time,” Weaver said. A spokesman for Ohio’s secretary of state, J. Kenneth Blackwell (R), who was named in the lawsuit, said he will not appeal the ruling. Election officials in Cuyahoga County, where most of challenges were filed, said they will not appeal either.
Both parties have been engaged in intense legal wrangling over election laws this year as they look for every possible edge in states where polls show the presidential race too close to call. They have fought over provisional ballots — given to voters whose names do not appear on rolls at polling sites — and how to determine their validity and how quickly the ballots should be counted. And they have battled over poll identification rules and procedures for early voting, a process in many states — such as Florida — that has already allowed more than 1.3 million people to vote in advance.
The Republicans lost a similar fight in Nevada, the story notes. It’s quite likely that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of ineligible voters registered. Unfortunately, the mechanisms for preventing those people from voting, motivated as they are by partisan considerations, make the party challenging them look as if they’re trying to disenfranchise voters. That’s not the impression one wants to leave in a swing state.
Update: Republicans challenge 5,600 addresses that may not exist (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal)
State Republicans filed a last-minute complaint Wednesday with the Milwaukee Election Commission claiming that 5,600 city addresses on the voter rolls may not exist. The commission will meet at 9 a.m. today to consider the Republican allegation. The Republican Party of Wisconsin checked the addresses of more than 300,000 people registered to vote in the city with a software program also used by the U.S. Postal Service. Republicans found that 5,619 addresses may be non-existent and then visited a number of the addresses. They snapped photos showing vacant lots, a gyro stand, a park and spots between two houses where the address should have been.
A Republican Party spokesman said the GOP routinely checks voter rolls to purge files and was interested in the city of Milwaukee because of the large number of new voter registrations for this presidential election. “George Bush lost the state by 5,708 votes, so these kinds of things do matter,” Chris Lato said.
A spokesman for John Kerry sharply criticized the move by Republicans, saying it was merely to prevent people, most likely those who lean Democratic, to vote. “This is part of a consistent effort on their part to try and call the legitimacy of the electoral system into question,” said George Twigg, Kerry’s Wisconsin campaign director. “Time and again Democrats have been working to encourage more to participate and encourage high participation. Republicans continue to file these often wildly inaccurate challenges to attempt to disenfranchise people,” Twigg said.
Except Nader voters, of course.
This situation seems more clear-cut than the one in Ohio. Obviously, registrations at non-residential addresses are fraudulent. Purging these people from the rolls, while probably advantageous from a political standpoint, is also a civic duty of the parties.