Supreme Court rejects GOP bid, backs Ohio’s Brunner

The story of voter fraud in Ohio sort of came to a conclusion today with the United States Supreme Court overturning the Federal Appeals Court and affirming the Ohio state court’s decision saying that the Ohio Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, did not have to supply a way for counties to verify new voter registrations via social security numbers or identification cards.

Here’s the report from Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court sided Friday with Ohio’s top elections official in a dispute with the state Republican Party over voter registrations.

The justices overruled a federal appeals court that had ordered Ohio’s top elections official to do more to help counties verify voter eligibility.

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, faced a deadline of Friday to set up a system to provide local officials with names of newly registered voters whose driver’s license numbers or Social Security numbers on voter registration forms don’t match records in other government databases.

Ohio Republicans contended the information for counties would help prevent fraud. Brunner said the GOP is trying to disenfranchise voters.

In a brief unsigned opinion, the justices said they were not commenting on whether Ohio is complying with a provision of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 that lays out requirements for verifying voter eligibility.

Instead, they said they were granting Brunner’s request because it appears that the law does not allow private entities, like the Ohio GOP, to file suit to enforce the provision of the law at issue.

About 200,000 of 666,000 voters who have registered in Ohio since Jan. 1 have records that don’t match. Brunner has said the discrepancies most likely stem from innocent clerical errors rather than fraud but has set up a verification plan.

McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said lower court rulings have clearly said the HAVA regulations require the secretary of state to match against the list, find where there’s been fraud and inconsistencies and report them to counties.

“Why in the world would that not happen? We have the technology, the budget, the means and the manpower to make that happen. Do we really want to have to find out after the fact that we had counties that would have been decided one way or another because the secretary of state didn’t bother doing the job the HAVA required?” Davis told reporters on a conference call. “I think the secretary of state ought to do her job,” he added.

Brunner’s assertion that verifying new registrations would “disenfranchise voters” seems dubious, at best. This should concern voters of all stripes since there are 200,000 potentially fraudulent registrations floating around Ohio, which could have votes assigned to them in the end, as either Obama or McCain.

Keep in mind that Bush’s win over Kerry in Ohio during the 2004 election was only by around 118,000 votes, so 200,000 potentially fraudulent votes is something of great concern, since that kind of fraud could shift and election either way.

A more detailed, legalistic explanation from the SCOTUS Blog:

The state GOP had complained that the Ohio Secretary of State had violated her duty, under federal election procedures law, to share with county election boards the lists of voters whose names in a voter registration database do not match data in the state’s drivers’ license files. The GOP argued that the secretary of state had put a stop to required efforts to pass along the non-matching data so that local election officials could deal with it. Lack of matches could be the basis for challenges.

The Supreme Court said it was not expressing any opinion on whether the state official had violated any duty under federal law. But, it said, it was not persuaded that the federal law gives a private party — like the state GOP — a right to go to court to enforce those provisions in the Help America Vote Act.

Under that act, voters whose eligibility is challenged at the polls may have to file provisional ballots, which would be counted only if their right to vote had been verified. Because Democrats have succeeded widely in efforts to register voters, it was generally assumed that such challenges in this election cycle would fall more heavily on that party than on the GOP. Tens of thousands of registrations might have been put in issue.

The Supreme Court, acting on the case after the Circuit Justice, Justice John Paul Stevens referred the matter to the full bench, not only granted the secretary of state’s plea to stay the federal judge’s temporary restraining order, but actually vacated it, thus removing any legal obligation spelled out in that order.

The Sixth Circuit Court in a 9-6 ruling had refused to stay the order.

So it goes.. Hopefully this has no effect on the outcome, let’s pray it does not and the Ohio results, regardless of which way they end up, are concrete and accurate.