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Advocates: Ohio backing away from vow to tell released felons of voting rights

Associated Press   24 September 2004 

CINCINNATI (AP) Advocates who contend that Ohio elections officials haven't properly informed released felons about their right to vote say the state has backed away from a promise that led to the settlement of a lawsuit.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said Thursday it has not agreed to give written notice to felons about their right to resume voting after they are released.

The Prison Reform Advocacy Center filed a lawsuit in August against Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell and 21 county election boards, which prisoner advocates said had provided incorrect information about restoring felons' voting rights.

The advocacy group said this month that it had ped the U.S. District Court lawsuit because the prison department had said during a meeting that it could notify paroled felons that they could vote.

But prison system spokeswoman JoEllen Culp said Thursday her department had made no such commitment because it was not a named defendant in the lawsuit.

The dispute involves thousands of ex-felons statewide who could be eligible to vote in the Nov. 2 presidential election. The deadline for registering to vote in that election is Oct. 4.

Blackwell, the state's chief elections officer, has not settled the lawsuit, believes he is complying with all laws and is prepared to go to court if necessary, said his spokesman, Carlo LoParo.

Ohio law allows felons to vote once they have been released from prison, even if they are on parole or probation.

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