A federal judge ruled this evening that Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner is breaking federal law by not giving county elections boards the chance to determine whether new voter registrations are fraudulent.
In uploading the Ohio Republican Party's request for a court order, Judge George C. Smith of the U.S. District Court in Columbus said, "It is hard to imagine a public interest more compelling than safeguarding the legitimacy of the election of the president of the United States."
Smith said that the Help America Vote Act requires states to not only verify the identity of newly registered voters with the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles and the federal Social Security Administration, but also to provide counties with the names of new voters whose records did not match.
Jennifer Brunner had been doing verification, but had not made the names available to county elections boards. Judge Smith gave Brunner a week to comply.
Once countries have the list, however, the judge said that he did not have the authority to order them to clean up the voter rolls. He also cited the "millions of qualified electors across the state of Ohio whose confidence in the electoral process will be undermined if new voter registrations are not verified in accordance with HAVA, and if unqualified individuals are permited to cast votes. This would demean the voting process and unlawfully dilute the votes of qualified voters."
Brunner's office said that she is filing an immediate appeal with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals:
“My office will do everything within its power to ensure that the state’s 88 county boards of elections can continue to allow early voting to proceed uninterrupted and to assist them with their preparation to ensure a smooth election for the voters of Ohio."
Smith emphasized the urgency of the situation in light of the deadline next Thursday to challenge absentee voters. On October 25 elections workers can remove ballots from envelops that contain the only identifying information about who cast them.
In announcing his decision, Smith cited questionable activity by one group that has registered thousands of new Ohio voters, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).
Kevin DeWine, Ohio Republican Party Deputy Chairman, said the ruling said a lot about Brunner:
“Her refusal to comply with federal law raises serious concerns about her ability to objectively oversee this election. It's especially troubling in light of her connection to ACORN and that group's stunning confession this week of fraudulent registration activity happening right here in Ohio,” he said.