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Federal Appeals Court Rules for GOP in Ohio Matching Case

Yesterday, the full Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals handed a surprising victory to state Republicans by requiring Ohio election officials to check all new voters’ registration information against existing databases by Friday.

As the Associated Press reports, the court, sitting *en banc *(all 16 judges), reversed the ruling just last week of its own three-judge panel that had said that the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) does not require states to match all new voters’ data. The Democratic Secretary of State, Jennifer Brummer, had said that matching all such data would be far too difficult to complete before Election Day.

The Ohio ruling is the latest in a series of cases around the country disputing what HAVA requires. Republicans in Florida, Washington, Wisconsin and elsewhere have maintained that states must verify all new voter registration information against new state databases that were mandated by law. Only if the information matches should the voter’s vote count.

Democrats and voting-rights advocates, on the other hand, have insisted that such a rule is not mandated by HAVA, and would disenfranchise tens of thousands of people in each state, because typos, nick-names, name changes and other technical problems with the data frequently prevent the matching of legitimate voters’ identifying information.

In Florida, for example, some 20,000 voters were prevented or delayed from voting in 2006 because of matching problems.

Given the close race in Ohio, whether all votes are counted could make all the difference.

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