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Ohio SOS Draws Line on GOP Polling Place Challenges

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, just issued a rule banning the GOP's main strategy for suppressing votes.
 
 
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Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat and former judge, Thursday issued a directive -- which has the force of law in Ohio elections -- telling local election officials that they cannot stop a person from voting on Nov. 4 if their voter registration information did not match a state or federal database.

The Ohio Republican Party -- as well as Republicans in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania -- are seeking to have voters whose registration information did not match federal Social Security records or state motor vehicle databases -- set aside, or given a provisional ballot which would have to be validated before being counted. The Social Security Administration has said that their records can have a 28.5 percent error rate when used this way.

The order, Directive 2008-99, says:

This Directive clarifies that judges of elections (poll workers) may not challenge a voter on Election Day based solely on the fact that the person offering to vote has been the subject of a data discrepancy between computer records maintained by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (including data originally obtained from the Social Security Administration database) and information provided by the person on his or her voter registration application and/or entered into the Statewide Voter Registration Database (SvVVRD) by the board of elections.

Brunner's directive explained why the no-match standard could disenfranchise legal voters.

The information used to "match" a registrant with preexisting databases often results in a data discrepancy or "non-match" based on circumstances as common as a data entry error or a blank field for last four digits of a social security number when a match has already been attained with the provided driver's license number. In addition, Ohio driver's licenses contain a number located above the picture that is often mistaken for the driver's license number.

Brunner said there was no requirement in Ohio law that forced election officials to give voters with "no-match" problems a provisional ballot.

Therefore, in the absence of an independent statutory basis for requiring a voter to vote a provisional ballot, voters whose names appear in poll books or poll lists as unflagged registered voters must be provided the opportunity to vote a regular ballot. There is no statutory support for requiring registered voters whose SvVVRD records indicate a data discrepancy to vote a provisional ballot on that basis alone or to be challenged on that basis alone. A copy of this directive must be included in the poll worker packets distributed to all poll workers."

You can expect Ohio Republicans to loudly protest this directive, but so far they have lost most of their challenges in court to Brunner.