Lawful Use of Same-Day Registration No Basis for Voter Witch-Hunt
XENIA, OH — Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Stephan Haller and Sheriff Gene Fischer abruptly announced they were dropping an investigation into same-day registrants last week, after Demos and other voting rights advocates warned that their actions appeared to violate federal voting rights protections.
The Greene County officials had demanded records of all 302 Greene County voters who registered and cast a ballot during the first week of early voting in Ohio, even though Sheriff Fischer had acknowledged in news reports that he lacked any first-hand reports or evidence that could support allegations of voter fraud. Demos letter on October 10, 2008, prepared by Democracy Program Legal Director Brenda Wright and joined by several Ohio and national organizations condemned the unsubstantiated investigation.
Launching an investigation purely because a voter has used lawful procedures to register and vote is nothing more than a witchhunt, said Wright. Voter intimidation, even if unintentional, is a serious violation of federal law and should not be tolerated. When four different federal and state court decisions in the past weeks have upheld the lawfulness of same-day registration in Ohio, there is absolutely no justification for a criminal investigation.
The Ohio Supreme Court and U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio ruled on September 29, 2008 that same-day registration and voting during the six-day window that ended October 6th was legal under Ohio law. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit also rejected a legal challenge seeking to stop same-day registration.
We are glad that this investigation has been dropped and we hope that officials in other counties will refrain from these kinds of practices. If voters are told that they will be investigated simply because they decided to use lawful procedures to cast a ballot, the chilling effect on political participation is obvious, said Wright.
Joining Demos in its letter to Sheriff Fischer and Prosecuting Attorney Haller were the ACLU, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, Project Vote, and Ellis Jacobs.
To read the letter sent to Greene County Officials, or to download relevant research, please visit demos.org.