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Suit Filed Against Ohio Voter ID Law
Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Labor and poverty groups sued to block Ohio's new voter identification law Tuesday, claiming that inconsistencies in how the law is applied make it unconstitutional.

"There's a significant risk here that tens of thousands of ballots will not be counted," said Subodh Chandra, a Cleveland attorney representing the group.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, seeks a temporary restraining order on behalf of 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 law in voting that is already under way.

The law requires voters to produce identification before casting ballots, but the boards are using different requirements for acceptable identification, such as military identification, driver's licenses and Social Security cards, said Chandra's co-counsel, attorney Caroline Gentry. She said voters also may encounter different requirements depending on whether they are voting absentee or at a board office.

Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, the Republican candidate for governor, has provided no guidance to clear up confusion, Chandra said.

Blackwell spokesman James Lee said the secretary of state's office has sent instructions to the county boards at least twice.

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.