By Mary Pat Flaherty
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Ohio Democrats and Republicans traded accusations yesterday as they continue to battle over absentee ballots and other voting issues.
The charges came after a county prosecutor in Cincinnati subpoenaed the Hamilton County Elections Board for the records of 266 new voters who cast absentee ballots during a week-long period in September and early October, when Ohio residents could register and vote on the same day.
County prosecutor Joseph T. Deters said he subpoenaed the records because a preliminary review by his office suggested there were problems with addresses and identities.
Deters, who is the Southwest Ohio regional chair for the McCain campaign, said, "I never discussed this with anyone on the campaign, and I would never do something like that."
Deters said he had received "some complaints from citizens" about possible registration problems and had been called by new voters "who admitted they had done something wrong by voting."
After his subpoena became public over the weekend, turning into the centerpiece of partisan wrangling, Deters recused himself and asked that his investigation be taken over by a court-appointed special prosecutor.
For weeks, Ohio's political parties have been sparring in court over voting issues. The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday ruled against Republicans challenging the status of nearly 200,000 new Ohio voters whose registration information conflicts with their driver's license or Social Security records. But within hours, a new case was brought to the state Supreme Court by a fundraiser for the Republican Party.
The renewed litigation prompted Gov. Ted Strickland (D) to say yesterday that Republicans "have tried to instill fear in Ohio voters."
The Ohio Republican Party said that Strickland had missed "a chance to be a statesman in this debate" and that he had been "conveniently silent" during earlier court cases.
The counterpunches are occurring as Republicans at the national and state level press complaints about voter registration drives conducted by the community group ACORN.
The records turned over to Deters, however, came out of "a few different voter registration drives" and were part of a pool of 671 voters in Hamilton County who registered and voted on the same day, said Sally Krisel, the county's elections board director.
The county would have verified voter information before counting the ballots, she said.
Both Deters and the plaintiff in the Ohio Supreme Court case cite an urgency in having the issues resolved before Saturday. That day, Ohio elections boards are permitted to begin processing, but not counting, the early ballots.