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Ohio Voting Rights Victory: Court Throws Out 'Right Polling Place, Wrong Table' Rule

In 2008, this crazy rule disqualified 14,000 votes by otherwise eligible voters.

A federal appeals court has thrown out one of Ohio's worst GOP-backed voter suppression rules--where a person who turns in a ballot at the wrong precinct table at their polling place would see that vote not counted.

"This is the most important decision in this election cycle, and it represents a major victory for voters’ rights, regardless of party," said Rick Hasen, founder of Election Law Blog, explaining today's decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. "No one should lose the right to vote because a poll worker can’t tell an odd from an even number.”

In 2008, 14,000 Ohioans were given a ballot in polling places with more than one precinct inside. But because they did not return it to the table or poll worker representing their specific precinct, their ballot was not counted.

The Service Employees International Union sued Ohio's Republican secretary of state to overturn this draconian rule. On Thursday, a federal appeals court issued a lengthy decision, consolidating two suits, that threw it out

Whether Ohio's GOP Secretary of State John Husted will appeal is an open question, because Husted has appealed most of the rulings that have gone against his office--including this week asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the state's early voting options, which a federal court also rejected and told Husted that he must offer that chopice on the weekend before Tuesday November 6.

As Hasen says, "The main point is this: it violates the Constitution (equal protection and due process) for the state of Ohio to fail to count ballots cast in the right location but in the wrong precinct solely because of poll worker error."

More on the ruling is available at Election Law blog.


Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).

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