Project Vote v. Blackwell (Ohio)

This lawsuit challenges an Ohio law requiring that compensated voter registration workers register with the state after completing an on-line training course and turn in collected voter registration applications directly to the secretary of state or local board of elections. Individuals that violate any provision of the statute are subject to criminal charges, up to a fifth degree felony.

The complaint claims the law is unconstitutionally vague, violates the Equal Protection clause of the United States Constitution because it only requires compensated workers to receive training and register with the state, the First Amendment by creating an excessive burden on core political speech and associational rights, the National Voter Registration Act because it burdens protected voter registration drives and requires unnecessary information on the mail voter registration application and the Voting Rights Act because it disparately impacts minority citizens.

On September 1, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction preventing enforcement of all provisions of the law that plaintiffs challenged. Specifically, Judge O’Malley ruled that the direct return provision was an extreme burden, unwieldy and did not serve any of the state’s articulated purposes. The judge further found that the direct return provision removed a layer of scrutiny from the registration process. She also ruled that the pre-registration affirmation required by the law creates an extreme burden and discriminates against paid workers with no rational basis.

Plaintiffs are Project Vote, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), American Association of People with Disabilities, People for the American Way Foundation, Communities of Faith Assemblies Church, and Common Cause Ohio. Plaintiffs are represented by Project Vote, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, the Advancement Project, the law firm of Perkins Coie and the McTigue Law Group.

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Federal Court: Ohio State Officials Responsible for Implementing National Voter Registration Laws

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According to a unanimous federal appeals court decision, the state of Ohio may no longer shirk its responsibility to ensure that low-income citizens are offered the opportunity to register to vote, as required by federal law. Read more