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Investigation into the 2004 US Election: Legal action taken relating to the election

 
  

Project: Investigation into the 2004 US Election

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October 29, 2004

       In Cincinnati, Donald and Marian Spencer, elderly African American civil rights activists, go to federal district court to challenge the 1953 Ohio law that permits poll watchers to challenge voters (See 4:00pm October 22, 2004). Critics of the law say it is rooted in a blatantly racist 1886 statute that emerged after the Civil War. The couple is supported in their case by the Democrats. The couple complains that most of the Republican challengers will be deployed in the heavily black precincts in the Cincinnati area in order to suppress minority voters. [Los Angeles Times, 11/2/2004; Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/1/2004] David Maume, a sociologist from the University of Cincinnati, testifies that demographic data show a disproportionate number of Republican challengers would be sent to precincts that are predominantly Africa-American. Maume further explains that perhaps as many as 77 percent of black voters would encounter a challenger on Election Day, compared with 25 percent of white voters. There is “a clear correlation between a voting population that is black and the placement of Republican challengers,” Maume concludes. [Cleveland Enquirer, 10/30/2004] The court resumes hearing on the case Sunday evening (See Evening, October 31, 2004). [Los Angeles Times, 11/2/2004]
          

1:24 am November 1, 2004

       In Cincinnati, US District Judge Susan J. Dlott rules on a case brought by Donald and Marian Spencer (See Evening, October 31, 2004), in which the couple challenged the GOP's plan to deploy challengers to polling sites in Hamilton County (See 4:00pm October 22, 2004). Dlott, appointed by Clinton in 1994, rules against the Republican plan, noting that there is no need to have challengers since Ohio already requires the presence of election judges at precincts in order to avoid voter fraud. “Under Ohio law, each polling place is staffed by four election judges, no more than two of whom can be from a single party,” the Los Angeles Times explains. “One of the four is appointed by each county election board to be the presiding judge, who can rule on challenges to a voter's qualifications.” Dlott warns in her 18-page decision that the Republican plan, if permitted, could cause “chaos, delay, intimidation and pandemonium inside the polls and in the lines outside the door.” She notes “that 14 percent of new voters in a majority white location will face a challenger ... but 97 percent of new voters in a majority African American voting location will see such a challenger.” Dlott says also that the law permitting challengers does not sufficiently protect citizens' fundamental right to vote. [Los Angeles Times, 11/2/2004; Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/2/2004; Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/1/2004; Columbus Dispatch, 11/1/2004] Dlott ruling is very similar to another one that is delivered a few hours later in a similar case in Akron (See Early morning, November 1, 2004). Commenting on the two rulings, two election law experts, professor Edward Foley of Ohio State University Law School in Columbus and Richard L. Hasen of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, both tell the Los Angeles Times that they consider it significant that the two judges have provided similar rationales for their rulings. “It is quite striking that the reasoning of both judges is the same and they echo one another,” Foley says. [Los Angeles Times, 11/2/2004]
          

Early morning, November 1, 2004

       In Akron, Ohio, US District Judge John R. Adams rules on a case brought by local residents (See Late October 2004), challenging the Republicans' plan to station challengers at polling sites in 65 Ohio counties (See 4:00pm October 22, 2004). Adams, appointed by Bush in 2002, rules against the GOP plan. In his decision he notes that Ohio already requires the presence of election judges at precincts in order to avoid voter fraud and that there is therefore no need to place challengers at the polls. “Under Ohio law, each polling place is staffed by four election judges, no more than two of whom can be from a single party,” the Los Angeles Times explains. “One of the four is appointed by each county election board to be the presiding judge, who can rule on challenges to a voter's qualifications.” Judge Adams also expresses concern that “random challenges or challenges without cause advanced by members of any political party ... could result in retaliatory ‘tit for tat’ challenges at the polling places.” Furthermore, he argues, “If challenges are made with any frequency, the resultant distraction and delay could give rise to chaos and a level of voter frustration that would turn qualified electors away from the polls” Finally, Adams also says that the law permitting challengers does not adequately protect a citizen's fundamental right to vote. [Los Angeles Times, 11/2/2004] Adams ruling is very similar to another one that was delivered just a few hours ago in a similar case in Cleveland (See 1:24 am November 1, 2004). Commenting on the two rulings, two election law experts, professor Edward Foley of Ohio State University Law School in Columbus and Richard L. Hasen of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, both tell the Los Angeles Times that they consider it significant that the two judges have provided similar rationales for their rulings. “It is quite striking that the reasoning of both judges is the same and they echo one another,” Foley says. [Los Angeles Times, 11/2/2004]
          

(1:00am) November 2, 2004

       The US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturns a ruling made by a federal district court the previous day (See Evening, October 31, 2004) which had barred Republicans from challenging voters at the polls (See 4:00pm October 22, 2004). The appeals court is presided by three judges, two of which were appointed by Republican presidents—Judge John M. Rogers, who was appointed by President Bush in 2002, and Senior Judge James L. Ryan, who was appointed by President Reagan in 1985. Judge Rogers writes in the court's decision: “Longer lines may, of course, result from delays and confusion when one side in a political controversy employs” challenges “more vigorously than in previous elections,” but “such a possibility does not amount to the severe burden upon the right to vote” that would justify a court order. Appeals Court Judge R. Guy Cole Jr., a 1995 appointee of President Clinton, disagrees. In his dissenting opinion, he says that under the Republican plan, “partisan challengers for the first time since the civil rights era seek to target precincts that have a majority African American population and without any legal standards or restrictions, challenge the voter qualifications of people as they stand waiting to exercise their fundamental right to vote.” He adds: “In this case, we anticipate the arrival of hundreds of Republican lawyers to challenge voter registration at the polls. Behind them will be hundreds of Democrat lawyers to challenge these challengers' challenges. This is a recipe for confusion and chaos.” [Los Angeles Times, 11/2/2004]
          


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