Thursday, November 02, 2006

Victory Realized for Voters: Simplified Identification Requirements

Columbus, OH -- Attorneys for groups representing voters who would be harmed by the new voter ID requirements achieved a significant victory late yesterday. In the third federal challenge to House Bill -- 3 (HB-3), this time on voter identification requirements, Judge Algenon L. Marbley, of the U.S. District Court in Columbus, issued a consent decree easing some of the restrictions that would have hindered some voters from having their votes counted.

One of the challengers’ lead witnesses, Pamela Denton, is a member of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless. She is a graduate of Spellman College who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and now lives in Cleveland. Her cousin was one of the girls killed in the infamous bombing outside a Birmingham Church. Having felt the blast that killed her cousin, voting became a right she held dear, and she has voted almost every year since she turned 18. For Pamela, it is a critical part of carrying on the legacy of her parents and Dr. Martin Luther King.

Ms. Denton is homeless, and she has only her social security number for identification. It is difficult for her receive an absentee ballot at a homeless shelter. To vote in person at the board of elections before Election Day, the board was requiring her to show an ID, which she did not have. In Franklin County, her social security number would have sufficed. Secretary of State Ken Blackwell had made little or no attempt as the state’s chief election officer to clarify the law for boards, and varying interpretations on identification abounded.

Ms. Denton wanted her vote to count. If she waited until Election Day to vote, she would have had to vote a provisional ballot that was not certain to be counted. Now, because of the court’s decision, she can vote in person at the board of elections before Election Day, and she knows here vote will be counted.

This marks the third challenge to H.B. 3 in nearly two months. A federal judge in Cleveland struck down provisions relating to additional requirements for naturalized citizens to vote, and another Cleveland federal judge struck down voter registration rules that would have subjected voter registrars to felony penalties.

“While there is more that will need to be done to protect people’s rights to vote, this is an important first step in ensuring every eligible voter who wants to vote can vote without hindrance,” said Jennifer Brunner, Ohio’s Democratic candidate for Secretary of State. “The consent decree will allow the boards of elections to proceed with a settled interpretation of the new law in time to instruct poll workers so that everyone operates with the same rules statewide,” continued Brunner.

As noted in The Cincinnati Enquirer in an October 31 endorsement of Jennifer Brunner, “Ohio has already seen lawsuits challenging its changes to the elections process and should expect more.”

“Brunner’s experience as a special prosecutor on election fraud and her years as special counsel to the secretary of state will make her especially effective in dealing with these challenges,” continued The Enquirer.

Wednesday’s federal court decision will have a huge impact with the general election just days away.

Jennifer Brunner, a former Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge, is uniquely qualified and credentialed to become Ohio ‘ s next Secretary of State. With her service as Legislative Counsel for the Secretary of State ‘ s Office, 13 years of election law private practice experience; including serving as a special prosecutor for election fraud, and making tough decisions as a Judge, she has clearly demonstrated her ability and desire to be Ohio ‘ s top elections official. Brunner has been endorsed b every major newspaper in Ohio, including her opponent’s hometown paper, The Cincinnati Enquirer.

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