McCain Campaign Chair Orders Investigation of Lawful Voters

10-22-08, 3:01 pm

In Cincinnati, this week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), along with other voting rights groups, charged the Hamilton County Special Prosecutor's office, which has ties to the McCain campaign, with arbitrarily investigating voters who lawfully used Ohio's same-day voter registration before casting a ballot in the state's early voting process earlier this month.

The ACLU, in a press statement, described the investigation as lacking 'specific, credible evidence of fraud.' 'Conducting an investigation without evidence isn’t just bad police work – it’s illegal when it could lead to lawful voters being intimidated,' said Carrie Davis, staff counsel with the ACLU of Ohio. 'Registering and voting are not a basis to undertake an investigation.'

In announcing his intention to launch an investigation of lawful voters, Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Deters appeared to misunderstand Ohio election laws. Deters claimed that voters failed to fulfill an identification requirement because some presented either the last four digits of their Social Security number or Ohio driver’s license number rather than a photo ID.

Both are acceptable means of identification, however, under Ohio law, according to the ACLU of Ohio.

In other situations, Deters claimed that some voter information did not match other government database information. (Deters apparently failed to offer evidence of this allegation, however.)

His unsubstantiated claim came just days after a US Supreme Court ruling threw out a similar state-wide Republican Party effort to force hundreds of thousands of registered Ohio voters off of the voter rolls, ruling that such a policy violates federal voting rights laws.

Still, Deters insisted that the local Board of Elections segregate those ballots and not count them on Election Day.

'What is going on here is nothing more than a partisan witch-hunt,' said Meredith Bell-Platts, staff counsel with the ACLU Voting Rights Project.

Joseph Deters also chairs the McCain-Palin campaign's Southwest Ohio efforts. While Deters was ordered off the case by a judge after his political affiliations were revealed, the apparently illegal investigation of lawful voters appears to be continuing.

'Officials want to treat these voters as criminals by launching an investigation and segregating their votes without due cause,' Bell-Platts added. 'This kind of fishing expedition so close to an election raises serious questions about this investigation’s legitimacy. Ohio officials should be expanding the right to vote, not denying it.'

'If voters believe that simply casting their ballot lawfully will subject them to investigation by police, it will almost certainly lead to some avoiding the ballot box,' Davis said.