UPDATED: GOP Sheriff in SW Ohio Shadows New Voters
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Voting rights advocates won an important battle in southern Ohio on Friday after a team of lawyers informed a local sheriff and county prosecutor that their attempt to interview new student voters about their voter registration credentials was "unlawful intimidation" under the Voting Rights Act and National Voter Registration Act.
"Recently, the Greene County Sheriff, Gene Fischer, made a public records request of the Greene County Board of Elections for new voter registration forms filed between September 30, 2008 and October 6, 2008," Greene County Prosecutor Stephen K. Haller said in a statement issued Friday. "This morning I learned that Sheriff Fischer has withdrawn his request for public records of new voter registrations."
Fischer, a Republican, told reporters in Ohio that he was launching an investigation into concerns about college students who took advantage of a week-long window in Ohio this fall where they could register to vote and then submit an in-person absentee ballot.
"If the information and quotations attributed to you and your representatives in this article are correct, you have launched this investigation without any evidence or credible allegation that any such voter has voted illegally," said the election protection coalition letter. "Your investigation instead appears to be based merely on unsubstantiated 'concerns' expressed in telephone calls by members of the public who appear to object to registration and voting by students in the community, unaccompanied by any specific allegation of actual fraud or other illegal conduct committed by any specific voter."
The letters, signed by the ACLU Voting Rights Project, ACLU of Ohio, Demos, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Project Vote and several Ohio law school professors, said the Greene County officials' investigation violated the "unlawful intimidation" clause of the Voting Rights Act and a similar provision in the National Voter Registration Act that prohibits anyone from interfering with legal voting.
For decades, law enforcement officers with partisan affiliations have used the power of their office to intimidate voters who they believe are likely to vote for candidates from an opposing party. This voter suppression tactic, whose roots date back to the pre-segregation era South, apparently has surfaced in southwestern Ohio. Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, writing for FreePress.org, offer this report.
The usual drumbeat claiming massive voter fraud has become ceaseless at Fox "News" and other right wing media mouthpieces.
As expected, the assault centers in Ohio, which once again could decide the presidency, but has manifested throughout the nation:
1) A Republican sheriff in Greene County, Ohio, has demanded social security and other records from 302 local voters whose ballots he apparently wants to negate. Sheriff Gene Fischer has requested registration cards and address forms for all Greene County residents who voted in a special session established in Ohio allowing new voters to register and vote on the same day. The process was challenged in court by the GOP. The Ohio Supreme Court turned down that challenge, and allowed the same-day voting to proceed. But now Fischer claims telephone calls complaining about the potential for voter fraud have prompted him to go after the information.