Page last updated at 17:46 GMT, Friday, 17 October 2008 18:46 UK

Court blocks Ohio vote challenge

Barack Obama
Mr Obama has a narrow lead in Ohio boosted by new voters

The US Supreme Court has blocked attempts by the Republican Party to challenge the right of 200,000 new voters to cast their ballots in Ohio.

An appeal court had previously backed a complaint brought by the party, which argued that the voters' details did not match federal records.

Their concern was over registered voters backing Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama for president.

A Democratic official said Republicans were trying to disenfranchise voters.

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, said that although there were 200,000 cases where voter registration did not match social security or motor vehicle registration records, the majority of the cases were mis-spellings or inaccuracies in data bases.

"Federal government red tape, mis-stated technical information or glitches in databases should not be the basis for voters having to cast provisional ballots," she said.


The Federal Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, had ordered Ms Brunner to supply county election boards in Ohio with lists of the disputed electors, which could have led to these voters being issued with provisional ballots, open to challenge.

Officials said the measure would have caused considerable delays on election day.

The US Supreme Court ruling means that Ms Brunner will no longer have to supply the lists.

The court said its ruling was not a comment on whether Ohio was complying with a provision of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 that lays out requirements for verifying voter eligibility.

Instead, the ruling was based on a judgment that the law does not allow private entities - like the Ohio Republican Party - to bring the case to court.

John McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis stressed that the court ruling was not a judgement on the validity of the Republican Party's case.

"If you look at what the ruling said, it said that the Republican Party didn't have standing in order to bring the suit," he told reporters on a campaign conference call. "It didn't make a decision on the merits of the case."

"I think that the secretary of state ought to do her job," he added.

Registration drive

The winner of the 2008 election is likely to be the candidate who is most successful at getting their voters to the polls.

The Obama campaign, in particular, has invested heavily in a voter registration drive to sign up new voters drawn from the ranks of its supporters, such as young people.

And they appear to have managed to increase the number of newly registered Democrats significantly in a number of key swing states in addition to Ohio, such as Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina.

So any further legal challenges to their right to vote could have a big effect on the election outcome if the contest is close.

In the 2000 US election, disputed ballots in Florida led to an election deadlock that was only resolved by the Supreme Court.

Electoral College votes

Winning post 270
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McCain - Republican
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