News & Politics

Supreme Court Says No To Ohio GOP

The US Supreme Court has sided with the Ohio Secretary of State in a dispute affecting 200,000-plus voter registrations
The U.S. Supreme Court has sided with the Ohio Secretary of State, Democrat Jennifer Brunner, in a dispute with the Ohio Republican Party over how county election boards can use an error-prone federal database to verify new voter registrations.

The impact of the ruling, issued Friday, could be significant -- not just in Ohio but also in Wisconsin where similar litigation is pending. At issue is whether "non-matches" of voter registration information on voter applications and the Social Security database can be used to disqualify voter registrations. Between January and September, Ohio had nearly 290,000 non-matches, according to Social Security Administration records.

The SSA issued a statement earlier this month warning states not to use the database as the sole basis for verifying voter registrations. However, Ohio Republicans have been among the loudest voices in the country saying that Democrats or their allies are saturating the system with phony registrations in an effort to win the presidency. They sued, seeking the list of all the "no-match" voters across state.

"What is the upshot of this ruling? It means that the Secretary need not provide the "no match" data to the county boards, and therefore the Ohio Republican Party won't be able to make its public information requests to get the data to raise voter challenges at the polls," said Rick Hasen, a law professor who runs one of the country's most influential election law blogs.

Earlier this week, the Ohio Republican Party said it would not pursue voter challenges based on this data, which raised eyebrows since litigation over that very issue worked its way up to the Supreme Court -- culminating in today's decision. The Ohio Secretary of State may now issue additional directives to county election boards on how to process any registrations that remain questionable.
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