Published: Thursday, November 2, 2006
Sides reach settlement in suit over Ohio's new voter ID law
Two groups had sued over the state law.
COLUMBUS (AP) Poverty and labor groups scored a partial victory Wednesday with a federal court settlement that clarifies and expands Ohio's new voter identification standards for Election Day, and suspends ID requirements altogether for absentee ballots.
The consent decree signed late Wednesday in U.S. District Court clears up confusion in key areas and allows more citizens to vote, said Cleveland attorney Subodh Chandra, one of the lawyers who filed a lawsuit challenging the state's new voter ID law.
The lawsuit, on behalf of the Service Employees International Union and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, had argued that counties were violating constitutional equal protection guarantees by inconsistently applying the law.
"We have never contended that a system of voter ID is unconstitutional, but what we have said is, if there is a constitutional system, this isn't it," Chandra said. "This was a train wreck, and we have diverted the train from derailment."
Yet the settlement in U.S. District Court Judge Algenon L. Marbley's courtroom stopped short of declaring any aspect of the voter ID law unconstitutional.
Called a victory for state
Mark Anthony, a spokesman for Attorney General Jim Petro, said that was a victory for the state and prevents further court wrangling from disrupting the election.
"This is a victory for defending a law that's designed to accomplish a good thing preventing voter fraud done so in a proper, constitutional way by the General Assembly," he said.
The settlement expands the number of provisional ballots that will be counted and widens some of the law's definitions. It allows voters who don't have identification to use their Social Security number, a scenario that had been omitted from the law.
Under the settlement, the definition of government documents that can be used as proof of ID has been expanded to specifically include those from local and county governments, as well as state universities and public community colleges.