CLEVELAND – The nation's first trial challenging punch-card voting was postponed Wednesday, removing the possibility of a ruling before the presidential election.
The American Civil Liberties Union had wanted a federal judge to declare Ohio's punch-card system unconstitutional, even if there was no hope of getting the system changed before November.
The trial opened on Monday. But U.S. District Judge David D. Dowd suspended the proceedings until Nov. 1 — one day before the presidential election — to allow the ACLU time to examine an expert report the state filed last Friday.
Kim Norris, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office, said the expert's conclusions were identical to a previous version filed, and alleged the ACLU was using the report as "an excuse to regroup."
ACLU lawyer Dan Tokaji said even if the conclusions are the same, the ACLU must review any new information in the report.
The ACLU claims punch-card machines are not uniform and in several counties are antiquated and do not allow voters to correct mistakes. The group also claims the state violates the voting rights of blacks, who live predominantly in punch-card counties.
State lawyers say Ohio is moving as quickly as it can to replace punch cards. The state denies it has violated the voting rights of black residents.
Punch-card ballots caused the 2000 presidential election fiasco in Florida, where problems with the ballots — such as hanging or dimpled chads — led to legal wrangling and recounts, until George W. Bush was declared the winner of the state by 537 votes.
In Ohio, the ballots are used in 69 of 88 counties, representing nearly 73 percent of registered voters. In the 2000 presidential election, nearly 94,000 Ohioans had their ballots rejected.