WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal judges in two states are expected to rule Monday on whether and how Republicans may challenge voters’ qualifications at the polls in battleground Ohio.

Democrats say planned voter challenges in Ohio and Florida may target minority voters or cause chaos and long lines at voting stations.

In-person challenges are allowable in both those states, either of which could determine the presidency, but questions about the motivation and conduct of poll challengers has become an important 11th-hour legal issue in the campaign. Poll challenges also could figure in legal challenges after the election.

Republicans lost a federal court battle Friday to conduct voter challenges at special hearings ahead of the Nov. 2 election.

The question now is whether the party may raise challenges at the polls to question an individual voter’s eligibility. At issue are thousands of names on the rolls in Ohio that the GOP calls suspect because political mail sent to the voters’ listed addresses could not be delivered.

Three Ohio judges take up various aspects of the question Monday, one day before the election.

A judge in an unlikely quarter – faraway New Jersey – could also rule on whether the poll challenges contemplated in Ohio should be outlawed nationally.

Lawyers worked over the weekend in that case, ahead of a Sunday deadline for filings with a federal judge in Newark.

Republican lawyers took depositions Saturday from a 20-year-old Cleveland woman who filed the complaint and a statistical expert who claimed blacks were more likely to be selected for potential challenges.

Democrats deposed a senior Republican National Committee official and a second statistical expert who countered the Democrats’ analysis.

U.S. District Judge Dickinson Debevoise is considering the complaint from the Cleveland woman, Ebony Malone, who claims she may be among the voters singled out for challenges.

Malone claims through her lawyers that the voter challenges violate a 1982 consent decree in New Jersey in which the Republican National Committee agreed to refrain from “ballot security activities … where racial or ethnic composition” was a factor. The RNC admitted no wrongdoing

Debevoise expanded the 1982 decree five years later, requiring that the RNC get court permission before undertaking any ballot security program nationally.

One of Malone’s lawyers, Craig Livingston, said a ruling could have implications beyond Ohio.

“We have a permanent injunction that deals with the abuse by the Republican National Committee to use racial and ethnic composition as a factor affecting their challenges,” Livingston said.

The consent decree applies only to the national political parties. The RNC did not mail anything to Malone and “has not been involved in any efforts to remove qualified voters from the voter rolls,” RNC Deputy Chairman Maria Cino told the judge in a filing Friday.

Republicans accuse Democrats of filing lawsuits to confuse people close to Election Day.

The New Jersey complaint “is consistent with the Democratic strategy of filing over 40 lawsuits in 18 states to try and change the rules,” RNC spokesman Jim Dyke said Saturday.



Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.