Voting Newsletter: Early Voting Battle in Ohio

August 14, 2012

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Latest Developments

Campaigns Spar Over Ohio Early Voting Rules

The Obama and Romney campaigns squabbled last week over changes to Ohio’s early voting days, which have been cut back significantly since 2008.

New early voting rules virtually eliminate voting the weekend before the election — when 93,000 people voted in 2008. Only military voters and their families retain the ability to vote on those days. The Obama campaign filed suit to require Ohio to restore the same early voting opportunities to all state voters.

The Romney campaign responded by saying Obama is trying to “undermine” the voting rights of the military, which independent analysts disputed.

“Mitt Romney wrongly suggests the Obama campaign is trying to ‘undermine’ the voting rights of military members through a lawsuit filed in Ohio,” wrote Lori Robertson of “The suit seeks to block state legislation that limited early voting times for nonmilitary members; it doesn't seek to impose restrictions on service members.”

Another fight is brewing over what hours some early voting offices will be open. Secretary of State John Husted “has joined with other Republicans to deny expanded early voting” in counties that strongly backed President Obama in 2008, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported. “Most of those where the extra hours will stand heavily supported GOP nominee John McCain.”

Watch Brennan Center President Michael Waldman (above left) discuss Ohio voting problems on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show.

State Updates

Pennsylvania – A decision is expected this week on the state’s voter ID law. Opponents of the law say they expect a “slam dunk victory,” but other reports indicate the outcome is hard to predict. Numerous reports surfaced since the trial showing how difficult it can be for some voters to get an ID to vote. Read more on the trial here and here. Pennsylvania recently inducted 21,000 people into the “Voter Hall of Fame,” a group reserved for those who have voted in 50 consecutive elections. But according to an analysis from the state AFL-CIO, 1,384 of the 5,923 registered voters on the list do not have a valid ID to vote, TPM reported. Read more voter ID news here, here, and here. Also watch former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) discuss the law on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Florida – Restrictions on early voting and registration drives, as well as voter purges, could hurt Obama in November, Bloomberg News reported. “The debacle in Florida in 2000 is part of what gave birth to this movement of tinkering with the rules before major elections,” said the Brennan Center’s Wendy Weiser. Read more on the restrictions here.

The battle over the state’s voter purge could last until after the election. A U.S. District judge asked the state to turn over records to the federal government, including the full 180,000 person list of potential non-citizens that started the controversy. Read more here. Meanwhile, the ACLU announced that more than 13,000 Floridians with past criminal convictions may be eligible to vote but don’t know it because notifications sent to them were returned as undeliverable. Also read Marc Caputo’s Miami Herald article showing how restrictive voting laws have done nothing to prevent absentee ballot fraud.

Texas – In a major victory for voting rights, a U.S. District Court Judge ordered the state of Texas to stop enforcing laws that restrict voter registration drives. The judge cited a recent case in Florida where the Brennan Center protected registration groups against similar restrictions. A decision is expected by the end of the month on the Texas voter ID lawsuit.

Iowa – The Secretary of State plans to use a federal database to check the citizenship status of more than 1,000 registered voters. Taking people off the rolls this close to the election can hurt legitimate voters, the Brennan Center’s Diana Kasdan told the Des Moines Register. “What’s happening is you are throwing off eligible citizens from the rolls because of these efforts to do this at the last minute in ways that are not necessarily reliable,” she said.

New Mexico – A long-time voting rights advocate was almost kicked off the rolls in New Mexico, even though she voted in 44 elections since 1992 and last voted just 88 days ago. Secretary of State Diana Duran claimed she found more than 175,000 “non-residents and non-voters” on the rolls and sent mailings asking them to verify their voting status. A similar purge in Florida threatened to remove eligible voters from the rolls.

Maryland – Online registration is now available to Maryland residents. Read more here.

Massachusetts – The state mailed voter registration forms to nearly 478,000 residents on public assistance, following a series of lawsuits to enforce federal requirements that states make registration available more widely at government agency offices. Sen. Scott Brown (R) denounced the mailing as a “Democratic ploy to boost the ranks of Democratic voters.” Rival Elizabeth Warren’s campaign countered by noting the “legal challenge that triggered the mailing is part of an ongoing national effort that began years ago and that the law that is being enforced has long ­received bipartisan support.”

Michigan – Some voters were turned away during last Tuesday’s primary because they were confused by a new “citizenship” box on the ballot application, CBS Detroit reported.

Minnesota – The Minneapolis Star-Tribune explained how the fine print of the voter ID amendment could change the face of Minnesota elections, including the state’s popular Election-Day registration system. Read about the suit challenging the amendment and how it could affect elections in rural Minnesota. Meanwhile, The Washington Examiner’s Byron York wrote that ineligible voters may have swung the 2008 election for Sen. Al Franken (D), but this claim was debunked in 2010. Read more at The Washington Post and Alternet.

South Carolina – A panel of federal judges will hear testimony starting August 27th in the suit over the state’s voter ID law. President George W. Bush appointed two of the judges to the bench, and President Bill Clinton appointed the other, TPM reported. Read more here.

Tennessee – The city of Memphis is challenging Tennessee’s voter ID law, saying it violates the state constitution. Read more here.

Don’t forget our up-to-date online summary of all pending and passed voting laws.

New Data and Research

Election Protection Smartphone App

A coalition of groups launched a smartphone application to provide all the information and resources voters need to fully participate in the 2012 election. The App will help voters verify their registration, register to vote, look up their polling place, review key voting rules and regulations for their state, see what type of machine they vote on, and contact Election Protection via phone or email to report a problem or get answers to their questions. Download the App now from your smartphone! Read more at BET and the Huffington Post.

Media Round-Up