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Dem Candidate for OH Sec. of State applauds judge's decision halting enforcement of punitive voter registration

By Patrick Galloway  Posted by Joan Brunwasser (about the submitter)     Permalink
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Jennifer Brunner Applauds Judge's Decision Halting Enforcement of Punitive Voter Registration

For Immediate Release

September 1, 2006 Columbus, OH Jennifer Brunner, Democratic candidate for Ohio Secretary of State, applauded the decision of U.S. District Judge Kathleen O'Malley rendered from the bench today in Cleveland, Ohio. Judge O'Malley granted a preliminary injunction to halt the enforcement of punitive voter registration rules adopted by Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell over strenuous opposition, that;

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* Penalize voter registrars with felony sanctions who fail to personally turn in voter registration forms they circulated,
* Require paid voter registrars to complete online training through the Secretary of State's website,
* Require paid voter registrars to list their name and their employer's name and address.

In her ruling, Judge O'Malley also ordered Blackwell to remove from his website the online training program ruled unenforceable by her order, unless he modifies the website to eliminate warnings about penalties and failure to take the training. Judge O'Malley's decision is effective immediately, and a written decision containing her orders is expected next week.

Brunner said, "This is a clear victory for voter registration groups who perform an important function in making our democracy accessible to all citizens. The timing is essential with just over a month to the close of registration before the November election."

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Columbus Attorney Larry James, representing Ohio Secretary of State Blackwell, said the Secretary would not be appealing the court's decision. In such an instance, it is likely the matter will be settled without going to trial, leaving voter registration groups in a position to move ahead to register voters unhindered by the threat of criminal prosecution.

The rules at issue resulted from the passage of House Bill 3 in late January. Secretary of State Ken Blackwell submitted rules for legislative approval in June that were soundly and vocally criticized by voter registration advocates. The rules impermissibly narrowed the operation of the law to criminally penalize individual voter registrars who failed to personally turn in completed voter registration forms. The rules were adopted with one of the chief architects of H.B. 3, Senator Jeff Jacobson, substituting in for another legislator in voting for the rules.

Until Judge O'Malley's decision, the rules effectively chilled voter registration efforts of organizations, leaving them unable to perform quality checks before registrars turned in their forms. Many voter registration groups stopped operating voter registration drives for fear that their registrars would be subjected to felony prosecution. The felony penalties for failing to turn in their own forms applied to both paid and unpaid voter registrars.

Jennifer Brunner, a former Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge, is uniquely qualified and credentialed to become Ohio ' s next Secretary of State. With her service as Legislative Counsel for the Secretary of State ' s Office, 13 years of election law private practice experience; including serving as a special prosecutor for election fraud, and making tough decisions as a Judge, she has clearly demonstrated her ability and desire to be Ohio ' s top elections official.

Media contact: Patrick Gallaway, Director of Communications Jennifer Brunner Committee, at (614) 246-1548, Patrick@jenniferbrunner.com
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