|Harkless et. al. v. Brunner et. al.|
The lawsuit filed in Ohio by ACORN, along with two individuals, charges Kenneth Blackwell, Secretary of State in Ohio and Barbara Riley, Director of the Department of Job and Family Services with failing to fulfill their obligations under Section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) to implement voter registration programs in public assistance agencies. Extensive research by ACORN found that virtually no clients at public assistance agencies were offered the opportunity to register to vote as required by the NVRA. In addition to requesting the Court order the Secretary of State to comply with NVRA, the complaint asks for a reporting and monitoring procedure that will ensure future compliance. Plaintiffs are represented by Project Vote, National Voting Rights Institute, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Dechert LLP and Donna Taylor Kolis.
The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, and after a decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the case returned to the district court where it settled after extensive fact discovery. The Court of Appeals decision established an important precedent that state officials have ultimate responsibility for compliance with this federal law, even when local agencies also have day-to-day responsibility for administering public benefits programs.
In November 2009 parties submitted a signed settlement agreement to Federal District Court Judge Patricia A. Gaughan. As a result of the agreement, the provision of voter registration services will be institutionalized within the office procedures at county DJFS offices, and both the SOS and ODJFS will make sure such services are provided. Among other important gains, the settlement requires that: voter registration applications be integrated within each agency’s benefits forms; voter registration be incorporated into the ODJFS statewide computer system used by all front-line caseworkers; the SOS designates the Department of Veterans Affairs as a voter registration agency; and the state will implement extensive training and monitoring requirements.
Complaint - September 2006
Signed Settlement Agreement - November 2009
All text and images © 2013 ProjectVote. All rights reserved.