League will not pursue database claim in election lawsuit
Thursday, Sep. 9, 2010
The League of Women Voters of Ohio (LWV-Ohio) announced Sep. 1 that it has resolved the final item in its historic lawsuit seeking to fix defects in the way Ohio conducts its elections.
The federal lawsuit, filed in 2005, alleged that for over 30 years, the offices of the Ohio Secretary of State and Governor had failed to protect the fundamental rights of eligible Ohio voters to cast a meaningful ballot, as required by the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The settlement agreement reached in June 2009 required that the state provide uniformity and consistency in Ohio election procedures so that the opportunity to vote can be enjoyed equally by all Ohio citizens.
However, the settlement agreement did not resolve plaintiffs’ claim relating to the accuracy of Ohio’s statewide voter registration database, implemented in 2005-2006 by then-Secretary of State Blackwell. When the settlement agreement was reached in 2009, Secretary Brunner was still refining the processes to be used to compare voter information contained in the statewide voter registration database with information contained in Bureau of Motor Vehicle and Social Security Administration databases, and with information maintained by local boards of elections. The Secretary filed reports on the status of voter registration database issues on Dec. 31, 2009, and most recently on Jun. 30.
The reports outlined the matching process and detailed the requirements placed on local boards of elections to achieve uniform criteria for handling voters’ records. The reports also detailed the constraints the Secretary faced in verifying records due to limited access to the Social Security Administration’s database to check existing records.
After careful review of the reports and a meeting between Secretary of State administrators and League leadership and election specialists, LWV-Ohio concluded that the Secretary has made sufficient progress in improving the accuracy of the database and in ensuring procedures are in place to address inaccuracies that arise in the future to warrant dismissal of the remaining claim. It is recognized that there will always be errors, but a uniform statewide process to resolve them is now in place.
LWV-Ohio elections specialist Peg Rosenfield notes, “The Secretary of State recognized the problems with the database and has made significant progress addressing them. Many types of errors, inconsistencies, and incomplete data have been reduced to a small fraction of those existing three years ago. More importantly, there are best practice guidelines and uniform standards statewide to address and resolve inconsistencies on an ongoing basis as they arise.”
On Aug. 31, the League filed a notice with the court indicating it did not intend to pursue this claim, thus resolving the final issue of the lawsuit.
The terms of the agreement will remain in effect until Jan. 11, 2015. The League of Women Voters of Ohio will continue to monitor the election-administration efforts to ensure compliance with the terms of the settlement agreement and the accuracy of the voter registration database.
Meg G. Flack, president of LWV-Ohio, said, “Our goal in filing the 2005 lawsuit was to ensure that all eligible Ohio voters could vote and that all valid votes were counted. Ohioans must have confidence in the electoral process – and we believe the procedures the Secretary of State has put in place to address inaccuracies in the voter registration database is another significant step towards those goals.”