Ohio Voter Registration Rules Tossed By Judge genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Voter registration

A federal judge has ruled that Ohio voter registration rules are apt to restrict voter registrations and may well violate First Amendment rights. The ruling follows on the heels of a similar decision in Florida earlier this week. Read the full article here.

Effective immediately, voters should ignore references to criminal penalties on the registration forms, U.S. District Judge Kathleen O'Malley said. She gave the secretary of state's office five days to remove references to the rules and penalties on its Web site.

Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, the Republican candidate for governor, said he plans to comply.

Blackwell has been viewed by many to be desirous of stifling Democratic voter registrations and has been the subject of ample conversation in the debate about irregularities in the Ohio 2004 presidential election results. Blackwell trails the Democratic candidate, Ted Strickland, by a significant margin at the moment.

O'Malley issued an order from the bench, saying she wanted to rule before Labor Day weekend -- traditionally a heavy voter registration drive time. A detailed written order is expected next week.

A coalition of voter advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers had sued the state, arguing the regulations should be thrown out.

The plaintiffs claimed the rules were intimidating and impaired their registration drives, particularly in low-income and minority areas, because the rules carry potential criminal penalties. They argued that criminal penalties could deter people from canvassing.

The state said the rules were needed to guard against voter fraud, an argument that O'Malley discounted.

"It is insufficient because it is not logical," she said. "Those who would work to make sure those who can vote do vote will have a less likelihood to commit fraud."

Republicans have always been hesitant to see expanded voter registration efforts as they historically sign up more Democrats. A recent Rasmussen tracking survey also reports that voters who identify themselves as Republicans is now only 31.9%, the lowest level in two and a half years. The survey indicates that some 37.3% identify as Democrats and unaffiliated voters now stand at 30.8%. Those numbers provide the Democrats the largest advantage since January of 2004.

Despite the favorable rulings and the numerical advantage, Democrats need to remain vigilant since the GOP has traditionally done a better job in getting out their voters. While the Democrats did a remarkable job in the 2004 presidential election, the Republican effort was still superior.

Daniel DiRito | September 2, 2006 | 8:53 AM
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