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May 10, 2012 – United States District Judge Algenon Marbley of the Southern District of Ohio ordered Ohio Republican legislative leaders Thomas E. Niehaus and Louis W. Blessing, Jr. to cease their efforts to interfere with a federal Consent Decree that protects voting rights of Ohio residents who must vote provisionally, and to dismiss “forthwith” a case they filed in the Ohio Supreme Court seeking to nullify that Decree. Niehaus is the Ohio Senate President and Blessing is the Ohio House Speaker Pro Tempore.
The Decree was entered in 2010 in Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless v. Husted, Case No. 2:06-cv-896. It requires, among other things, that Ohio officials count provisional votes cast by individuals who lack state identification even if the ballots are filled out incorrectly or cast at the wrong precinct table when those errors are attributable to mis-direction by poll workers.
On April 16, 2012, Niehaus and Blessing filed an action in the Ohio Supreme Court seeking an order requiring the Secretary of State to violate the federal Consent Decree. They argued that the Consent Decree was entered unlawfully under Ohio law.
In issuing his order, Judge Marbley determined that the Republican legislative leaders were bound as parties to the Consent Decree and could not seek to nullify that decree in state court. Judge Marbley said that federal courts would protect “the right of the franchise” and invoked the federal All Writs Act, which enables federal courts to protect their jurisdiction and judgments against interference, in enjoining Niehaus and Blessing to dismiss the case.
Plaintiffs in the case are the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1199, and the Ohio Democratic Party. Porter Wright and the Chandra Law Firm LLC represent the Homeless Coalition and SEIU Local 1199. Altshuler Berzon LLP and Hunter, Carnahan, Shoub & Byard represent SEIU Local 1199. Plaintiff-Intervenor the Ohio Democratic Party is represented by McTigue & McGinnis LLC.