Project Vote v. Madison County Board of Elections (James S. Gwin, N.D. Ohio 1:08-cv-2266) and Ohio Republican Party v. Brunner (George C. Smith, S.D. Ohio 2:08-cv-913)
Absentee voting began in Ohio 35 days before the 2008 general election; state election law required voters to be registered at least 30 days before the election. Could new voters both register and vote on the same day if they did so after absentee voting began and before the deadline for new voter registrations? On a Wednesday, three public interest organizations and two voters filed a federal complaint in the Northern District against a county in the Southern District that interpreted the law as requiring registration 30 days before voting instead of 30 days before the election. The district judge set the matter for hearing on Monday mid-day. On Friday, the Republican Party and a voter filed a federal action in the Southern District to force Ohio’s secretary of state to require voters to be registered for 30 days before voting. Over the weekend, defendants in each case moved to transfer their case to the other district. Both judges denied these motions, and both judges moved up their Monday hearings. On Monday, the Northern District judge ruled that the statute required registration 30 days before the election, not 30 days before voting. That same day, Ohio’s supreme court reached the same result. Later that day, the Southern District judge deferred to the state court on the issue. Other issues in the Southern District case received expedited review by another district judge, the court of appeals, and the Supreme Court.
Topics: Absentee ballots; case assignment; Help America Vote Act (HAVA); registration procedures.
One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.