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Ohio officials dispute voter ID law challenge



Published: Sat, October 28, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Petro is filing the appeal without Blackwell's go-ahead.

COLUMBUS (AP) -- Secretary of State Ken Blackwell doesn't want to fight a federal judge's decision to suspend Ohio's new voter identification law, but an old political adversary is keeping the issue alive at a critical time in Blackwell's campaign for governor.

Attorney General Jim Petro, who sought the GOP nomination for governor and lost to Blackwell in the May primary, filed a notice to appeal Friday, a day after U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley suspended the ID requirements for people requesting absentee ballots.

The ruling was a victory for labor and poverty groups who filed a lawsuit against Blackwell, arguing that Ohio's 88 counties are using different requirements for acceptable identification, such as military identification, driver's licenses and Social Security cards.

Blackwell, who trails Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland by double digits in recent polls, did not want to challenge the judge's decision, said James Lee, a spokesman for the secretary of state's office.

Related issue

Petro, whose staff is representing Blackwell in court, went ahead anyway. Petro also sought to intervene in the larger issue of whether ID provisions will be applied for voters who go to the polls Nov. 7, which the court will address Wednesday. Marbley ruled Friday that Petro could not make himself a defendant in that case, saying Petro had no basis for getting involved.

The judge also suggested that Blackwell and Petro may be fighting over how to handle the case.

"There's a concern, if not suspicion, on this court that there may be a disagreement over legal strategy here, and that's the engine driving this train," Marbley said.

A message seeking comment was left Friday with Mark Anthony, a spokesman for the attorney general's office. Earlier in the day, Anthony said Petro's office sought to intervene in the case to defend the constitutionality of the new voter statute.

Subodh Chandra, a lawyer representing labor and poverty groups who filed the lawsuit, said the state's legal maneuverings continue to bring more confusion and chaos to Ohio's elections process.

It's unclear how many absentee ballots have been cast since early voting began Oct. 3. None were scheduled to be counted before Election Day, and Marbley, in suspending the voter ID requirement Thursday, ordered county boards of elections to preserve the ballots.

The lawsuit was filed by Service Employees International Union Local 1199 and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.




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