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Labor, poverty groups sue over ID law



Published: Wed, October 25, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



It's unconstitutional, the lawyers argue.

COLUMBUS (AP) -- Lawyers for labor and poverty groups sued Tuesday to block Ohio's new law requiring voters to produce identification when they vote, alleging that inconsistencies in the way the law is being enforced makes it unconstitutional.

"There's a significant risk here that tens of thousands of ballots will not be counted," Subodh Chandra, a Cleveland attorney representing the group, said of the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.

Chandra was hoping for a hearing later Tuesday on his request for a temporary order blocking enforcement of the requirements that voters produce identification before they can vote. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Service Employees International Union Local 1199 and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.

Chandra, a one-time Democratic attorney general candidate, said Ohio's 88 county boards of elections are inconsistently applying the new laws in voting that's already under way. Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, the Republican candidate for governor, has provided no guidance to clear up confusion, he said.

Differing rules

His co-counsel, attorney Caroline Gentry, said voters are facing various requirements from county boards of elections for accepting military IDs, driver's licenses and Social Security cards. She said they also may encounter various requirements depending if they are voting absentee or at the board office.

Secretary of State spokesman James Lee said Blackwell's office sent instructions to the county boards before the August special election, and those guidelines have been re-sent at least twice since May.

"We are in regular communication with all 88 county boards of elections, and if there is any remaining doubt on the part of any boards of elections, then we will have those discussions with boards of elections individually," he said.

Lee said each election board also has a county prosecutor to help them interpret the law.

"My point is, there are a number of resources that the county boards have at their disposal to get a clear understanding of the law," he said.

Driver's license numbers

Among the provisions questioned in the complaint is one that allows an Ohio driver's license number to be provided as identification. Gentry said that there are two numbers on a driver's license, the actual license number and an identifier that appears above the card's photograph.

In early voting, she said attorneys have identified one county accepting either number, one accepting only the license number, another unclear and awaiting legal guidance from the state, and two others that didn't understand the dilemma.

"The relief we're seeking is to stop the insanity and go back to when our votes counted," Chandra said. "You can't educate people about every nonsensical inconsistency in this law, and even if you could, the necessary guidance hasn't been issued to say what information they should be taught."




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