Concerns about the validity of the mass of newly registered voters in Ohio (especially names submitted by the dubious left-wing activist group ACORN) led a federal appeals court to require election officials to impose a safeguard that may require some new voters to cast provisional ballots instead of regular ones on Election Day.
But in the mind of reporter Ian Urbina, the possibility of voter fraud is apparently overridden by the possibility of "widespread problems when the voters show up at the polls," in "Court Ruling May Impede Thousands of Ohio Voters ."
More than 200,000 registered Ohio voters may be blocked from casting regular ballots on Election Day because of a federal appeals court decision on Tuesday requiring the disclosure of lists of voters whose names did not match those on government databases, state election officials and voting experts said.
The court decision requires Jennifer Brunner, the Ohio secretary of state, to provide the names to local election officials by Friday. Once the local officials have the names, they may require these voters to cast provisional ballots rather than regular ones, and they may ask partisan poll workers to challenge these voters on Election Day. Both possibilities could cause widespread problems when the voters show up at the polls.
Better to have provisional ballots than to have legitimate votes cancelled out by illegitimate ones, right? Apparently not. Urbina detailed the Democratic rebuttal:
Concerns about those problems led the Ohio Attorney General's Office to file an appeal of the decision to the United States Supreme Court on behalf of Ms. Brunner on Wednesday night.
The state's appeal went directly to Justice John Paul Stevens because he oversees the Sixth Circuit. It argued that the Republican Party had nearly two years to raise complaints about the process of screening voter registrations and failed to do so. Any changes now to the process would disrupt preparations for the election, it contended.
Federal law requires states to verify voter registration applications with a government database like those for driver's licenses or Social Security cards. Names that do not match are flagged for further verification. Since Democrats have been more aggressive at registering new voters this year, the decision will probably affect their party's supporters disproportionately. Polling in the state shows Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, with a slight lead on his Republican challenger, Senator John McCain.
Republicans have been angered by reports of voter-registration fraud linked to groups allied with Democrats, like Acorn, a community organizing group with ties to Mr. Obama. This month, the Ohio Republican Party filed a motion seeking to force Ms. Brunner, a Democrat, to hand over the list of all registration applications that had been flagged when checked using the state or federal databases.
Urbina quoted three law professors, all of who disagreed with the decision, all of who appear to be liberal (although that's par for the course for law professors).
Social Security data indicate that Ohio election officials found more than 200,000 names that did not match this year; state election officials say their analysis of the data indicates that most of these are individual voters, not duplicate registrations. But Ms. Brunner said that problems with the databases could very well be why the names did not match.
Ms. Brunner said she was worried that requiring so many voters to cast provisional ballots would also raise tensions at the polls and worsen lines and confusion on Election Day in a year when she is expecting unprecedented turnout.
Wendy Weiser, a lawyer with the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University law school, said many voters were flagged erroneously because the databases used to check voter registrations were prone to errors. Most nonmatches are the result of typographical errors by government officials and computer errors, she said, not voter ineligibility.