The Ohio GOP continues to fight Secretary of State Brunner to force her to produce a list of registrations that failed to match data on state and federal databases the state is required to check as part of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). It now has had House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) send a letter to President Bush to ask the Department of Justice to intervene in the case.
The Republicans contend that the state must give the list of registration mismatches to local election boards so that challenges can be made on election day. Jennifer Brunner, the Ohio Secretary of State, contends that HAVA gives no guidance on what to do about mismatches. She also contends that even if the data isn’t a 100% match, it can’t be used to keep someone from voting.
The type of mismatches included missing middle names, someone failed to put in a change of address so the address doesn’t match, their name is misspelled or the different databases hold different information. None of issues would prevent that person from voting – that is even with the data mismatch the voter was eligible to vote.
State Republicans believe these mismatches should be used to keep that person from voting – that the person isn’t eligible to vote. They filed a lawsuit to force Brunner to turn over the mismatches to the local boards. Through appeals, the case was sent to the US Supreme Court. The court didn’t rule on the merits of the case (who was correct) only that private groups couldn’t sue for enforcement of HAVA. So now the GOP wants the Department of Justice involved.
They claim Brunner is attempting to hide voter fraud but the real point is to force those voters to fill out provisional ballots.
In 2006, nationwide, only 60% of provisional ballots were counted. In Ohio, where the poll numbers show a close race for President, keeping 20% of questionable voters from having their votes counted would affect the outcome of the overall vote in the state. In fact the GOP only need to suppress 5 to 6 percent. After they get those voters to cast provisional ballots then they can fight how they are counted.
Late last week Secretary Brunner issued a directive on how to handle and count provisional ballots for this election so hopefully the GOP efforts, if successfully, won’t keep large numbers of people from having their vote counted. Currently there are 200,000 registrations that have mismatched data out of 600,000 new registrations.
The other point of their efforts is to cast a bad light on the election if their candidate loses. They can claim the election was “stolen”.
Another side issue is the efforts of some extremists – either Republicans or sympathetic to Republicans – have now taken to trying to hack the state election website and to mail in or call in death threats to Secretary Brunner. In fact one man has been arrested so far for making threats.
But this is a classic operation from the right – intimidations, threats, and loud protests – used to get their way. It all reminds me of efforts in fascist 3rd world countries where voters are threatened of killed for exercising their duty. The Republicans can’t just let the normal civil court actions take place they have to cause trouble.
Election Law Blog has more information on this issue and others around the country.