2006 Ohio Elections Could Have Pitfalls: OSU Analyst

Ohio’s swing-state status in the 2004 presidential race brought intense scrutiny to the state’s voting process. Since then, the legislature has been trying to fix what some believe are problems with the system. But some critics say the tinkering may only create more chaos.

The state of Ohio may return to the national spotlight this fall if elections go something like they did two years ago. The legislature has been making changes to voting rules, but according to Ohio State University law professor Dan Tokaji the new procedures may only bring more court challenges.

“There are a lot of fights brewing in Ohio over the 2006 election season, Tokaji says. “They are ones that are likely to come before the courts at some point.”

Tokaji is associate director of the Election Law @ Moritz Project. He says the project aims at providing objective analysis on election law in Ohio and other states. Tokaji says Ohio was one of several states that did not have clearly defined procedures in place before the 2004 election.

“There are also some questions about whether those rules that states have are consistent with federal law including the constitution.”

A federal court recently blocked a new Ohio provision that would have made voter registration efforts by non-partisan groups – like the League of Women Voters — more difficult. Evolving technology may also be part of the problem.

We’ve seen a lot of fights and lawsuits since 2000 over punch card ballots with some people alleging that those are unconstitutional Punch cards are now a thing of the past but now the battle has shifted to electronic voting machines, with some advocates saying that the use of electronic voting machines violates their constitutional rights.”

Tokaji says the use of electronic voting machines is one of seven possible pitfalls that may strike Ohio in the November elections.

One, voting machines. Two, registration issues. Third, provisional ballots, including the circumstances in which voters should get them and the circumstances under which they should be counted. Fourth, voter identification, including not only the constitutionality of laws but ensuring how they’re implemented equally across voters in various counties; that they’re not applied in a discriminatory way. Fifth, challenges to voter eligibility in the polling place. Sixth, long lines could be an issue again in 2006. And finally the issue of recounts and contests in the event of a close race.

Tokaji says that as long as there are elections in Ohio, there will be challenges.

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