Ohio GOP Challenges New Voting Rules:

In 2004, Ohio Democrats alleged Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell was applying the state's election rules to benefit Republicans. Now the shoe is on the other foot and Ohio Republicans are accusing Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner is make rule changes to help Democrats. Specifically, Ohio Republicans are challenging new rules that would allow some would-be early voters to register and vote on the same day. As the WSJ reports:

In Ohio, a recently enacted state law -- the subject of the Brunner directive -- allows residents, for the first time in a general presidential election, to vote early by absentee ballot without providing a justification. Advocates for the homeless and other groups say they will direct new voters to take advantage of the overlap between early voting, which begins Sept. 30, and voter registration, which ends Oct. 6. During that window, citizens can register and vote simultaneously. The outreach efforts are expected to benefit Democrats.

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, a Cleveland-based umbrella group for service providers, housing activists and others, is making plans to drive about 2,000 shelter residents to polling places during the overlap period. "This is a huge opportunity to prove to elected officials that very low-income people do vote," said Brian Davis, executive director of the group.

Republican officials are furious, charging that the one-stop process will encourage voter fraud. They argue that a state law requires Ohio residents to register at least 30 days before voting, so same-day registration and voting should be banned.

Ms. Brunner's position is that early ballots do not constitute votes until they are tabulated on Nov. 4, said Jeff Ortega, a spokesman for Ms. Brunner. In a statement about Friday's lawsuit, Ms. Brunner said, "It is unfortunate that a small, but vocal, group of Republican leaders continues to inject confusion and chaos in our elections."

A suit has been filed to stop the same-day registration and voting, and I will be curious to read the briefs and see how it comes out.


Decision Voids Absentee Ballot Apps in Ohio:

It is interesting to juxtapose Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's decision to allow some absentee voters to register and vote on the same day with another recent decision that has the effect of invalidating over 1,000 absentee ballot applications collected by the McCain campaign.

More than 1,000 absentee ballot applications in Greater Cincinnati have been ruled invalid because Republican Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign printed a version of the form with an extra, unneeded box on it.

The forms were sent to more than 1 million registered voters statewide, according to a McCain spokesman in Ohio.

The McCain forms included a box voters can mark to declare themselves qualified to vote. But Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner says that if the box isn't checked, circled or initialed, the application is no good. Those voters are essentially admitting they're not eligible, she said.

That ruling has drawn howls from Republicans, who say it's an attempt to disenfranchise them. Election officials say it could wreak havoc in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 4 election.

"I have not seen a ruling that indirectly impacts voters to the enormity of this since I've been here," Hamilton County Board of Elections Deputy Director John Williams said of his nearly five-year tenure at the board.

This decision could well end up in court, in part because similar absentee ballot applications collected before a special election in 2007 were accepted.


Chicago-Style Elections on Lake Erie:

The Cincinnati Enquirer's Peter Bronson thinks Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner -- "the most partisan state official in Ohio" -- "is doing her best to bring Chicago elections to Ohio."


Courts Allow Same-Day Registration, Voting in Ohio:

Both state and federal courts turned away GOP lawsuits challenging Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's decision to allow same-day voter registration and early voting. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld Brunner's decision 4-3, and two federal courts declined to rule the other way. The NYT reports:

The early voting begins Tuesday and runs through Oct. 6. The Ohio Supreme Court and a federal judge in Cleveland on Monday upheld the weeklong voting period. Later in the day, Judge George Smith of Federal District Court in Columbus declined to rule, deferring to the Ohio Supreme Court decision.

But Judge Smith ruled that counties must allow party poll observers during early voting.

The disputed voting window results from an overlap between Tuesday's beginning of absentee voting 35 days before Election Day, and the Oct. 6 end of voter registration.

The Columbus Dispatch covers the rulings here. There's lots more on the Ohio State Election Law blog.


Ohio Secretary of State Must Accept Absentee Apps:

Last week, the Ohio Supreme Court unanimously issued a writ of mandamus enjoining Scretary of State Jennifer Brunner from refusing absentee ballot applications on which applicants failed to check an unnecessary check box. The per curiam order is here, CPD coverage here, and links-n-stuff here.