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Voting Rights News: Win for Ohio, Pennsylvania Photo IDs Released

In voter suppression news, a big ruling in Ohio paves the way for thousands of wrong-precinct provisional ballots to be counted.

A federal judge ruled Monday that Ohio must count improperly cast ballots this fall if the mistake is caused by an election worker rather than the voter, a small but potentially significant issue in an important presidential battleground state […]

“Recent experience proves that our elections are decided, all too often, by improbably slim margins — not just in local races .?.?. but even for the highest national offices,” U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley wrote. “Any potential threat to the integrity of the franchise, no matter how small, must therefore be treated with the utmost seriousness.”

The legal fight is probably not over. “We respectfully disagree with the judge’s ruling and will likely appeal,” said Matt McClellan, a spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R).

Basically, the wrong-precinct ballots will get counted if the reason can be attributed to poll worker error. In urban counties in Ohio, often several precincts vote at the same polling place. It becomes very easy for a voter to use the wrong precinct to vote, and then to have to cast a provisional ballot. So once again, the rule favored by the state would have a disproportionate effect on minority voters in the cities. The ruling overturns that, though there will be an appeal to the 6th Circuit Court.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, the Department of State unveiled their new voter ID card, which does not carry driving privileges but is intended for those eligible voters that have no picture ID.

The plan for the “voter-only” cards was announced this summer after it became clear that some voters, particularly elderly people born in other states, were running into an array of difficulties obtaining their birth certificates or Social Security cards.

Unlike the nondriver’s ID, which requires a raised-seal birth certificate and Social Security card, the new ID requires applicants to provide just their name, address, Social Security number, proof of residency, and previous name and/or address if either changed in the preceding 12 months.

The applicant must also be registered to vote.

Voters now have 10 weeks to get the cards. There are 71 DMVs serving Pennsylvania, and 13 of them are open only once a week. And in addition, voters requiring the ID will probably need to make more than one trip to the DMV. So for those without transportation, those who have difficulty speaking English, the disabled, the elderly, etc., there are still hurdles to overcome.

Recent polling in Pennsylvania has led Republicans and outside groups to pull out of the state, so maybe they don’t view the voter suppression tactics as enough to stop a landslide for Obama in November. However, there are other races on the ballot as well, and any close race could see a boost for the Republican from this new rule. Moreover, voter rules even in states not central to the election can make a big difference. South Carolina is protesting a Justice Department ruling on their voter ID law in federal court this week. They want to supersede the Voting Rights Act’s pre-clearance rules and institute their own voting laws, despite their history of discrimination. If they’re successful, it will open the floodgates for a host of voter suppression tactics in the states covered by Section 5 of the VRA.

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David Dayen

David Dayen