OCTOBER 10, 2008
For the second time in a few days, a court has ruled against the top election official in a key swing state forecasted to play a crucial role in the upcoming presidential election.
Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner received her second court defeat of the month, when a federal judge in Columbus ruled that she is breaking federal law by not giving county election boards the opportunity to screen new voter registrations for fraud.
Brunner’s office has been verifying the registrations but not making the names available to the state’s 88 county election boards, a violation of the 2002 Help America Vote Act, which specifically requires states to provide counties with the names of new voters whose records did not match the state Motor Vehicle Bureau or the federal Social Security Administration.
The judge (George Smith) gave the secretary of state a week to comply, pointing out that “it is hard to imagine a public interest more compelling than safeguarding the legitimacy of the election of the president of the United States.”
Last week the secretary of state got spanked by Ohio’s Supreme Court, which unanimously ordered her to stop rejecting applications for absentee ballots because of an unmarked box. Brunner had ordered county election officials to reject thousands of absentee ballot applications, sent to voters by the John McCain campaign, if a box was not checked off at the top.
Each application had a line at the top next to a box that read: “I am a qualified elector.” Brunner claimed that failure to check the box left both the applicant and the board of elections without verification that the applicant was indeed a qualified elector.
The Ohio Supreme Court disagreed, ruling that under the law the secretary of state misdirected the members of boards of elections as to their duties. No public purpose or public interest is served by rejecting electors’ applications for absentee ballots because of an unmarked check box next to a qualified-elector statement, the ruling said. It further points out that there is no evidence of fraud.
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