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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sixth Circuit Strikes Serious Blow to Voter Rights

The ultra-conservative Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has released an alarming decision that seems disturbingly political. Yesterday, the full Sixth Circuit panel released a decision after holding an en banc hearing in which it ordered the Ohio Secretary of State to provide county election boards with a list of all registered voters whose registration information does not “match” information in the state motor vehicle bureau’s database.

The case was brought by the Ohio Republican Party (ORP) looking to create a sort of “hit list” of voters whose information did not match the information in the motor vehicle bureau’s database. It was originally rejected by a three-judge panel because the justices had serious doubts that private parties like ORP could even bring suits of this sort and that there was a serious risk that a court’s interference with state election procedures could lead to improper “purging” of completely valid ballots.

The Sixth Circuit’s conservative majority however, did not like the panel’s decision and agreed to hear the case en banc, eventually reversing the outcome. In a statement today, Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron said, “Yesterday’s decision by the Sixth Circuit upholding an effort to disenfranchise thousands of voters is an extraordinary example of making decisions based on a political agenda rather than legal principles. Evidently, when push came to shove, the conservatives on the Sixth Circuit could be relied upon to give the Republican Party one of the tools it needed to set the stage for post-election turmoil in Ohio.”

Probably the most disturbing part of yesterday’s decision comes from George H.W. Bush appointee Alice M. Batchelder. Judge Batchelder’s husband, a Republican state representative, is up for reelection in November. Despite this clear conflict of interest, Judge Batchelder did not recuse herself. She sided with the conservative majority in support of ORP. Once again, it looks like Ohio will be a major battle-ground in this year’s election.

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