The Lawyers’ Committee and coalition partners took twin actions on October 10, 2008 to protect the right to vote of hundreds of thousands of Ohioans who registered to vote this year, and to halt recent efforts by law enforcement officials in one Ohio county apparently aimed at intimidating Ohioans who had legally cast absentee ballots in the county for the November 4 election. In a “friend of the court” brief filed with the appeals court, the voting rights groups contend that the trial court’s decision is wrong and that the Secretary of State has correctly implemented HAVA. The groups also sent a letter to the sheriff stating that, in light of these widely publicized rulings, it appeared that his actions constituted voter intimidation in violation of federal law.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous order on October 17th which overruled recent decisions by two lower courts which had found that the Help America Vote Act (known as “HAVA”) required Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to perform cumbersome and unnecessary computer matching on the records of hundreds of thousands of newly-registered voters, and then turn the results over to county election officials. Had the Secretary of State been required to go forward under the lower courts’ orders, thousands of eligible new Ohio voters could have faced last-minute disenfranchisement.