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Originally published Saturday, October 18, 2008 at 12:00 AM


Campaign Notebook

Ohio GOP loses fight to contest new voters

The Supreme Court on Friday threw out a lawsuit brought by the Ohio Republican Party that could have made it easier to challenge tens of...

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Friday threw out a lawsuit brought by the Ohio Republican Party that could have made it easier to challenge tens of thousands of newly registered voters.

The Supreme Court, in a brief opinion, said the federal law that called for computer checks of new voters did not authorize private lawsuits to enforce it.

The ruling is a victory for Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat. She said she feared "chaos" on Election Day if the GOP were permitted last-minute challenges to new voters based on data on file with the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Ohio, always a closely contested state, has more than 600,000 new registered voters this year. Brunner said she feared that as many as 200,000 could be challenged and forced to file provisional ballots if there were a mismatch between the information on their voter-registration cards and the data on file with the DMV.

One example came to light this week. Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, or "Joe the plumber," became a celebrated figure in the third debate between John McCain and Barack Obama. But several Ohio newspapers said his name is misspelled as "Worzelbacher" in state records. That mismatch could have led to his being challenged at the polls if he had been a newly registered voter.

The state GOP sued Brunner last month, asserting that her office had not complied with the federal Help America Voter Act. It says the state election chief must set up a computerized system that allows for checking new voters with DMV records.

Brunner said Ohio had complied with that requirement. But the GOP lawsuit said her office should print out a list of "mismatches" for all 88 counties in Ohio.

In response, Brunner said it would be troublesome to reprogram the state's computers at this late stage. A federal judge, however, ordered her to make the change, and the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati upheld that order in a 10-6 vote.

All the judges in the majority except one were Republican appointees. All the dissenters were nominated by Democrats.


DWI conviction: Rep. Vito Fossella, R-N.Y., was convicted Friday in Alexandria, Va., of drunken driving, another blow from a late-night traffic stop that exposed secrets of his personal life and wrecked his career. Fossella's May 1 arrest led to revelations that he had fathered a child from an extramarital affair, and he decided not to seek re-election.

Adultery scandal: Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-Fla., embroiled in an adultery scandal and a tight race for re-election, admitted Friday to having at least two affairs but insisted he broke no laws and will not resign. Mahoney, 52, apologized to his wife, his daughter and his constituents, even as he maintained he hadn't been hypocritical.


Cindy McCain's taxes: Republican presidential candidate John McCain's wife, Cindy, reported $4.2 million in income for 2007, nearly $2 million less than she reported the previous year, according to tax returns released Friday. McCain, who files her taxes separately from her husband, paid $1.1 million in taxes and reported nearly $530,000 in itemized deductions.

No 3rd-party debate: The troubled presidential debate for third-party candidates scheduled for Sunday in New York was canceled Friday after none of the four candidates had committed to the event.

Seattle Times news services

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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