The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

July 13, 2013

Federal judge hears case on Ohio ballot, ID rules

By ANN SANNER
Associated Press

COLUMBUS — Voter advocates asked a federal judge Friday to extend a court order they say ensures that broad definitions of voter identification requirements would remain in place in the perennial presidential battleground of Ohio.

Though attorneys for the state’s top election official said he’s committed to the more lenient voter ID definitions, unless the Legislature changes the law.

At issue is whether a 2010 expiring court agreement that governs provisional ballots and forms of voter ID in Ohio should continue.

An attorney representing homeless voters told the federal court in Columbus that without the decree, the state would return to a “Wild West” system in which county election boards could apply vague standards unequally and unfairly to legitimate voters.

Cleveland attorney Subodh Chandra told U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley that his clients would like the decree to continue indefinitely, or at least until 2021, which could allow state legislators to put into law the broad ID definitions.

Since the decree was issued, Chandra told the court, “the General Assembly has simply failed to do so.”  

The debate over the federal court agreement dates to 2006, when a state law laid out the requirements for when provisional ballots are counted, starting with voters who have only the last four digits of a Social Security number as identification.

A 2006 lawsuit by advocates for homeless voters challenged the state law, and in 2010 then-Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, entered into a federal consent decree that was more open when it comes to provisional ballots and identification requirements.