Late Wednesday, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell issued a directive that, for the first time, will allow political parties to apportion partisan challengers by precinct instead of polling site, thereby greatly increasing the number of challengers at Ohio polling places.
For example, a polling place serving four precincts would normally have one challenger from each party. Blackwell’s directive will now allow four challengers at that location, one for each precinct served.
The deadline for registering partisan poll challengers passed on October 22nd. A New York Times story the following day revealed that the Republican Party registered 3,600 challengers, while the Democratic Party registered 2,000. Neither party is allowed to add challengers, but Blackwell’s directive will allow the parties to concentrate multiple challengers at polling places with multiple precincts.
People For the American Way Foundation President Ralph G. Neas said:
“There is something terribly wrong here. The question must be asked: is the Ohio Secretary of State using his position for partisan advantage? What is the purpose for putting an unprecedented number of challengers at the polls and allowing them to be concentrated in precincts?
“At a minimum, this creates the potential for long lines, great confusion and frustration, and ultimately, the possibility that many working men and women who can’t afford to stand in long lines on a work day will effectively be denied the right to vote. That’s wrong.
“The Secretary of State should protect the rights of legitimate voters, not curtail them. He should make decisions that bring more voters to the polls, not keep them away. He should clear the path to the ballot box, not put up barriers. There should be nothing to fear, and everything to gain, from a massive voter turnout in Ohio.”
People For the American Way Foundation is a founding member of the nonpartisan Election Protection coalition, an organization dedicated to voter education, empowerment and protection. The coalition will have poll monitors stationed at voting sites around Ohio on Election Day, and operates a toll-free hotline, 1-866-OUR VOTE, to provide free legal assistance and information to voters.