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Court Case Tracker

Project Vote v. Blackwell

A case challenging restrictions on third party voter registration drives.

Published: February 11, 2008

A group of civic organizations filed a lawsuit with the United States District Court, Northern District of Ohio seeking to overturn state restrictions on voter registration. The onerous and vague new laws and regulations chill plaintiffs’ efforts to register voters. The rules will limit voter registration, unnecessarily exclude eligible voters from the election process, and suppress the vote in Ohio. They also violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, and protections contained in the first and fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

The complaint filed on July 6, 2006 raised several concerns with House Bill 3 and the rules and procedures set forth by the Secretary of State, including:

  • In the past, citizens working to register voters were able to turn in the completed forms to a civic group or church that would review the forms for accuracy, turn them into the registrar, and follow up later to make sure the voter was actually registered. Now, workers collecting voter registration forms would be forbidden from doing that and would be subject to felony charges if the forms were to be handed in late or not directly to registrars’ offices.
  • Rules that require online training discriminate against low income citizens who don’t have computers and some voter registration groups and churches which may have extremely limited access to computers.
  • The same online-only requirement prevents some disabled registration workers from being certified. Because no alternative is offered, many otherwise qualified volunteers would be prevented from registering new voters.

Representatives of the groups also noted that due to technical errors, workers who have attempted to take the online training have been unable to complete the program.

On September 1, 2006, a federal court in Cleveland blocked enforcement of the Ohio state law. Following a victory in Florida just four days ago, the decision is likely to impact similar restrictions in New Mexico, Georgia, and Colorado. A partial final judgment was granted on February 11, 2008.

Groups in the lawsuit include: Project Vote, Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN), People For the American Way Foundation, Communities of Faith Assemblies Church, and Common Cause Ohio. The law firm of Perkins, Coie is lead counsel. Co-counsels include: Don McTigue, the Brennan Center, People For the American Way Foundation, and Brian W. Mellor.

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