The battle over voting rights in Ohio rages on with a new federal appeal challenging state laws enacted by the GOP-dominated legislature in 2014 and signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich. A group that includes the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and Ohio Democratic Party wants the full 15-judge 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to consider a decision earlier this by month by a three-judge panel of the appellate court. The case “involves a question of exceptional importance that will impact the upcoming presidential election,” the group told the appeals court. The panel’s ruling also conflicts with other court rulings, including the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore that settled the 2000 presidential election. The three-judge panel that largely left the GOP laws intact divided along party and racial lines, with two whites appointed by Republican presidents in the majority and a black picked by a Democrat issuing a withering dissent.
The ruling is being challenged because “the laws require throwing out absentee and provisional ballots on trivial technical errors on ballot forms even where elections boards do not otherwise question voters’ identity and eligibility,” said a release by the office of Cleveland attorney Subodh Chandra, who represents the homeless group.
The appellate panel let stand a portion of the laws that allows elections officials to throw out absentee ballots if the voter legibly signs his or her name in a space that calls for the name to be printed.
However, the three judges did reject requirements in Senate Bills 205 and 216 that the votes should be thrown out even if voters make minor errors in putting their address or date of birth on the form. But they did not make a similar ruling for provisional ballots, cast by voters whose eligibility is in question. The groups appealing say the two-judge majority improperly let stand a widely varying interpretation of how strictly those laws should be applied among Ohio’s 88 counties.