Election Law

Ohio Recount Rules, Ban on Some Election Suits Could Bring Delays, Legal Issues

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Quirks of Ohio elections law could prolong the results and spur legal questions.

Large numbers of provisional ballots are likely in Ohio, and those ballots cast by people overseas or in the military can’t begin to be counted until Nov. 17, the New York Times reports. If the official canvas shows the presidential candidates are within 0.25 percent of the overall vote total, an automatic recount must be held—beginning Dec. 2.

“If the margin in the presidential contest is narrow here,” the Times says, “as many polls predict, the winner may not be known until well into December.”

The Am Law Daily reports on another unusual aspect of Ohio elections law. Under a 2006 law, federal election results cannot be challenged in state court. Cleveland-Marshall law professor S. Candice Hoke tells the publication it is not clear how any federal litigation would play out.

Litigants might be able to bring an equal protection claim, Hoke said. Or they might be able sue under the Help America Vote Act setting minimum election standards, though standing could be an issue for voters or candidates.

An Ohio elections activist, meanwhile, is raising another issue in a federal lawsuit (PDF) filed in Columbus, report the Associated Press and the Christian Science Monitor. The suit filed on Monday by Green Party congressional candidate Bob Fitrakis claims untested voting software creates a risk that votes could be altered.

The suit, filed under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act, cites violations of due process, equal protection and the right to vote.

A spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of State’s office calls the lawsuit “ridiculous.”

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Three Voting Lawsuits Filed; Provisional Ballots Could Be Big Battleground”

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