Posted Oct. 21,2008 – The U.S. Supreme Court blocked a challenge to 200,000 Ohio voters whose registration data conflicted with other state records over the weekend. However, challenges to the eligibility of countless other voters continue in a number of states nationwide.
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There are no reports of large-scale problems in Virginia, Maryland or the District, but the trouble is cropping up in many states, reports The Washington Post. In Alabama, scores of voters are being labeled as convicted felons on the basis of incorrect lists.
In Michigan, voter registration officials must restore thousands of names it illegally removed from voter rolls over residency questions, a judge ruled this week.
Tens of thousands of voters could also be affected in Wisconsin, where officials are having problems with its registration information. Officials there admit that their database is wrong one out of five times when it flags voters, sometimes for data discrepancies as small as a middle initial or a typo in a birth date. When the six members of the state elections board – all retired judges – ran their registrations through the system, four were incorrectly rejected because of mismatches.
New registration lists have become the battle ground in many states as officials concerned about fraud and political campaigns are looking for an advantage. It is "this season's big issue," said Wendy R. Weiser, who directs voting rights projects for the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law, reports The New York Times. Weiser said that efforts to keep names off the lists are "a new trend, not in the majority of states but in the battleground states."
The changes stem from the Help America Vote Act, passed by Congress in 2002 in the aftermath of the deadlocked presidential race two years earlier. The law provided millions of dollars for states to upgrade voting equipment and procedures, and to create the centralized databases, which allow voters in most states to check their registrations and polling places on the Internet. The electronic lists have been coming online gradually, and for 31 states, this will be the first time they are used in a presidential election. By federal law, anyone whose name is flagged must be notified and given a chance to prove his or her eligibility.
But voting rights experts say voters are not always alerted, and even if they are, some may decide to simply skip the election. If questions about eligibility remain on Election Day, those voters are entitled to cast a "provisional" ballot. But which of those ballots are ultimately counted depends on local and state rules.