Supreme Court lifts order requiring Ohio to cross-check voter rolls

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Friday vacated [order, PDF] a temporary restraining order (TRO) requiring Ohio's secretary of state to establish a system that allows county elections boards to confirm newly registered voters' eligibility. The Court granted a request by Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner [official website] to stay the TRO, which was upheld [JURIST report] on Tuesday by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website]. In the TRO, the district court ordered Brunner to comply with an anti-fraud provision [text] of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) [FEC materials] that requires state election and motor vehicles officials to match information between their databases to ensure voter eligibility. According to the Supreme Court's brief per curiam opinion,

[t]he Secretary argues both that the District Court had no jurisdiction to enter the TRO and that its ruling on the merits was erroneous. We express no opinion on the question whether HAVA is being properly implemented. Respondents, however, are not sufficiently likely to prevail on the question whether Congress has authorized the District Court to enforce Section 303 in an action brought by a private litigant to justify the issuance of a TRO.
Reacting to the Court's decision, Robert Bennett, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party [party website], said [news release] the decision "was made on a technicality, not on the merits of the case" as he accused Brunner of "actively working to conceal fraudulent activity in this election." Brunner, in her own statement [text], said the Court "has protected the voting rights of all Ohioans, allowing our bipartisan elections officials to continue preparing for a successful November election." AP has more. The Columbus Dispatch has local coverage.

The TRO gave Brunner until Friday to furnish county elections officials with lists of prospective voters whose information in state databases contains discrepancies, or to provide the officials with access to the statewide voter registration database so they could resolve the discrepancies. In its opinion [PDF text], Sixth Circuit said that Brunner had offered insufficient evidentiary support for her arguments that altering computer programs to comply with the order would threaten the election process. Last week, the New York Times reported that thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states, including Ohio, had been removed from voter rolls [JURIST] against federal voting law. The Times article found that elections officials had violated HAVA by cross-checking voter rolls with lists from the Social Security Administration before using information from other sources, as required by the statute. Voters and advocacy groups have challenged Ohio elections procedures since the state's pivotal role in the 2004 presidential campaign.

 

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