Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Provisional Ballot Directive Spurs Court Action in Ohio

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Provisional Ballot Directive Spurs Court Action in Ohio

Article excerpt

Voter advocates and state officials say that a recent directive by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted regarding provisional ballots gives the elections chief greater license to disenfranchise voters, and have asked the court to intervene.

Attorneys for the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Service Employees International Union Local 1199 -- who previously sued over provisional ballot language -- have asked U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley to clarify a previous decree that authorizes that poll workers to be responsible for incomplete or missing information on ballot ID forms.

At issue is a section of the form that Mr. Husted released as part of a directive issued late Friday that orders elections boards to reject provisional ballots that are incomplete, and requires the voter to record the form of ID they are using rather than the worker, said Subodh Chandra, one of the attorneys who filed the motion asking for court clarification after noting Mr. Husted's directive.

The court ruled on Oct. 26 that such ballots should be counted, ruling that "it is the election official's, and not the voter's, duty to record any identification proffered by a voter."

"Why, when a government worker blunders, should our liberties be lost?" Mr. Chandra said. "This increases the likelihood that there will be mistakes, and [Mr. Husted] has insisted that mistakes mean ... don't count the vote."

Mr. Chandra said in 2008 there were 14,000 provisional votes that were deemed invalid, and that Mr. Husted's directive increases the chances that the 2012 election will produce ballot rejection in greater numbers.

But Matt McClellan, spokesman for the Secretary of State's Office, said the provisional ballot form is the same one the office has been using for elections throughout the year, and that Mr. Husted's directive was issued for no other reason than to be in compliance with the court rulings and to avoid confusion on Election Day.

"If anything, these individuals bringing this up at the 11th hour ... is what's causing the confusion," Mr. McClellan said.

A decision was not expected before Election Day, but Judge Marbley indicated late Friday he'll rule before Nov. …

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