Ohio Argues Human Error Shouldn’t Void Voter I.D. Law

     CINCINNATI (CN) — Failure of boards of elections to uniformly enforce voter I.D. requirements is no reason to invalidate the law, lawyers for Ohio told the Sixth Circuit on Thursday.
     Thursday’s arguments were the second time this week that a three-judge panel heard arguments about the controversial law.
     Today’s presentations focused on absentee ballots and voter identification requirements that were ruled unconstitutional by the Columbus Federal Court.
     Senate Bill 205, signed into law in 2014, requires absentee and provisional voters to fill out five identification “fields” when they complete a ballot, including name and address.
     The Northeast Coalition for the Homeless, lead plaintiff in the case, defended the lower court’s ruling and maintained that the laws are unconstitutionally vague.
     Attorney Subodh Chandra argued that the law cannot stand because enforcement varies by county.
     “There is overwhelming evidence that voters are treated differently across counties,” Chandra said. “The biggest counties do not count provisional ballots if [a voter] leaves out the zip code [of his or her address]. Smaller counties will count the votes.”
     Chandra argued that because the larger counties include more African American and Hispanic voters, the statute has a disparate impact on minorities.
     U.S. Circuit Judge Danny Julian Boggs asked whether the disparate impact was caused by the statute itself or the boards of election across the state.
     “Both,” said Chandra. “Once you introduce the ‘five fields,’ numerous permutations and possible errors arise.”
     Attorney Stephen Carney argued on behalf of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, and stressed to the panel that the statute is equally applied to all voters.
     “If humans apply the law differently [across counties],” Carney said, “That does not mean the law must be [thrown out].”
     Carney cited election statistics and said the law helps to reduce the amount of discounted votes.
     He claimed that in 2014, Ohio was one of only five states in the country to count over 90 percent of its provisional ballots, and that of the rejected ballots, over half were rejected because the voters were not registered.
     The attorney also countered his opposition’s argument regarding variances in application across counties.
     “If a voter writes an address of 123 Grand, but leaves off Avenue or Street,” Carney said, “The vote may be counted in a small county because there may only be one street with the name Grand, while a larger one [may have two or three].”
     U.S. Circuit Judges John Rogers and Damon Keith — who took part by phone — rounded out the panel.
     No timetable has been set for the court’s decision.

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