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October 17th, 2008
09:41 PM ET

Score one for Ohio voters

Editor's note: The Supreme Court today threw out a lawsuit by the Ohio Republican Party that would have forced Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, to verify records of thousands of voters whose information didn't match up with government databases. The state Republican Party contends that there is widespread voter fraud in Ohio and Brunner "turned off" its process for verifying voter registrations while allowing Ohioans to cast ballots on the same day they registered. The justices in an unsigned opinion blocked a lower court order directing Brunner to update the state's voter registration database by today.

Ian Inaba
Co-founder, Video the Vote

Just hours away from having to release a list of about 200,000 voters whose names don’t match other government databases, the Supreme Court has granted Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner a reprieve . The Court actually sidestepped the question of whether Brunner is in compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act, deciding instead that the GOP had no standing to bring the case.

Although it ruled based on a technicality, we at Video the Vote think the Court landed on the side of the voters. Releasing the list would have led to more provisional ballots, partisan challenges, longer lines, and further erosion of confidence in our election system. And it would have done very little to prevent supposed “voter fraud,” which, as has been extensively documented, doesn’t need much preventing.

As an aside, while most voters will never have to cast a provisional ballot, or wait in hour long lines, it’s worth listening to those who have. There are few things more disempowering than having obstacles put between you and the voting booth.

This decision makes us wonder if the Court is taking pains to avoid helping (or appearing to help) one party over the other in fights over votes. After all, in some eyes, the shadow of the Bush v. Gore decision still hangs over the court.

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Filed under: Ian Inaba • Voting
October 17th, 2008
08:31 AM ET

The fraud of "voter fraud"

Ian Inaba
Co-founder, Video the Vote

The war over so-called "voter fraud" has reached a fever pitch during the last several weeks.  In the most recent battle, the forces of "election integrity" are claiming victory after the 6th Circuit Appeals Court forced Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to release a list of 200,000 voters whose names don’t match government databases.  At Video the Vote  – a national, nonpartisan election monitoring project – we’ve been hitting the streets to meet the real-life voters caught in the crossfire.

During the past two weeks, we’ve interviewed people on Florida’s “No Match No Vote” list, voters being caged in Missoula, Montana, and we’ll meet with Ohio voters as soon as that list is released.

What we’ve found is not surprising, but it is disturbing. Voters don’t end up on these lists because they are trying to defraud the system.  They’re there because of clerical errors, changed maiden names, or even because they were shipped across the country to train for military deployment.   In many cases, we were the first to inform them that their registrations might be in jeopardy.

And these voters have questions about the motivations behind overzealous voter list management.  As “caged” Montana voter Sarah Horvath asked: “What does this mean?  Does someone not want me to vote?”  We don’t like to assume bad faith, but with scant evidence of actual voter fraud, and thousands of voters disenfranchised in recent elections, it’s hard not to see the efforts to “clean up the rolls” as anything more than a voter suppression tactic.

What happens next in Ohio remains to be seen, but will likely impact the presidential election.  The GOP says it won’t use the list to challenge voters, but observers are dubious given that the party has requested information about newly registered voters from all 88 counties.  And legal experts say the list can’t be used to purge voters because we are within 90 days of the election, a legal issue that has garnered scant media attention despite this excellent New York Times investigation.

But there is little question that the Ohio ruling will increase confusion, lengthen lines, and cause difficulty for voters on Election Day.  As happens all too often in the battle between two political parties, it is everyday voters who will lose.    

Editor's note: Ian Inaba is director and producer of American Blackout, a pre-election music video for Eminem's "Mosh," and author of the book True Lies. In 2006 he co-founded Video the Vote, a citizen journalism project that organizes volunteers to document voting irregularities. He is also the co-founder of GNN.tv, an independent news and film organization.


Filed under: Ian Inaba • Voting