Ohio Provisional Ballot Order Could Delay Election Results

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Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, left, was formerly the Ohio Speaker of the House. Husted, pictured here, answers questions as former Senate President Bill Harris (R) looks on. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

Late Friday, in a last-minute decision that could invalidate votes and delay the outcome of the presidential election, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, ordered a change to how provisional ballots are cast in Ohio. When Ohio voters cast provisional ballots, they are required to provide to a poll worker either a social security number, or a driver’s license, or another form of ID. In past elections, the poll worker was required to fill out a section of the ballot stating what kind of ID the voter presented. On Friday, Husted ordered that voters — not poll workers — must now fill out this section of the ballot. If they do not, their vote will not be counted.

States use provisional ballots whenever there is uncertainty about a voter’s identity or about whether that voter has already cast his or her ballot. Provisional ballots are counted after regular ballots, but, in a close presidential election, still come into play determining electoral college votes.

Husted’s order came late in the game. Early voting by regular ballot began in Ohio on Monday, Oct. 29, and according to the Secretary of State’s website, Ohioans could have cast provisional ballots in person as early as Oct. 8 if the voter had moved and not yet registered at his or her new address.

Husted’s staff say that his order is an attempt to comply with a recent court decree pertaining to ID for provisional ballots. But voter advocates say Husted’s order actually goes against the decree, which sought “to ensure no provisional ballot is disqualified when a poll worker fails to complete her designated portion of the envelope.” Voter advocates also suggest that it is in direct conflict with Ohio election law, which states, “the appropriate local election official shall record the type of identification provided.” Voter advocates and the Democratic Party filed a suit against Husted late Friday evening, asking for further clarification from the court.

Monday afternoon, Federal Judge Algenon L. Marbley, the same judge who issued the decree, ordered both sides to appear in court on Wednesday, Nov. 7, the day after the election, to argue their case. Marbley wrote that the case would have to be expedited so that Ohio’s election officials will know how to count provisional ballots that have been filled out incorrectly:

Since this suit bears on Ohio’s conduct of the November 6, 2012 election, it is appropriate to deviate from the Local Rules in order to expedite the briefing schedule and timely resolve the question. The timing is particularly sensitive given the need for Defendant Husted and the State of Ohio to issue instructions to election officials in conformity with this Court’s decision prior to the counting of provisional ballots.

Prognosticator Nate Silver says there’s a 50 percent chance that Ohio will be the deciding state in the presidential election. If the count there is close, Husted’s provisional ballot order could come into question: Should provisional ballots lacking ID information be thrown out in accordance with his order? Were this scenario to play out, legal analyst Andrew Cohen writes:

[T]here will be a great deal of anxious vote counting after Election Day. This scenario hasn’t exactly been a secret. But here’s an actual live dispute for us all to watch. It’s also a reminder that anyone rooting for a resolution Tuesday night (or early Wednesday) ought to hope that it doesn’t all come down to Ohio. If it does, it will be weeks — and one judicial hearing after another — before we have an answer.

Voter advocates also criticized Husted earlier this election cycle when he sought to eliminate early voting. He wasn’t entirely successful, but he did slash the number of early voting weekends from five to one. Early voting is designed to help workers who can’t vote on Election Day cast their ballot on a weekend — and many urban Ohio workers vote Democratic. The consolidated early voting period caused huge lines at polling places, and many waited hours to cast their ballots.

Both political parties are ready for the election to be decided in Ohio, and Democrats especially are prepared to challenge the way in which the votes have been cast and counted. The New York Times reports that Republicans have 70 lawyers ready to be dispatched in Cuyahoga County — the country that contains the Cleveland metro area — and the Democrats have over 600. In total, the Democratic Party has dispatched around 2,500 lawyers throughout the state.

Each side says the other cannot be trusted and, given the likelihood of a tight presidential race, the risks of litigation here — and delayed results — are high.

“If it’s close, you will see both sides running to court,” said Jeff Hastings, a Republican and chairman of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.

If you do live in Ohio, here’s a guide on how to make sure your vote gets counted.

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  • Anonymous

    Just as you thought the Republican party has gone completely off the rails, you discover they were merely detrained.

  • http://www.facebook.com/setaside2 Marc Morris

    What concerns me is why we don’t have legislation of some sort stating that changes like these cannot be made within 30 days of any election day. Why on earth was Husted, or any partisan politician, allowed anywhere NEAR the polls??!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1532996189 Mark Lawrence

    Secretary of State Jon Husted should be ashamed and impeached. Voting is a fundamental right. Voter supression should be illegal and hours should be consistant and uniform across the board, nationwide, in national elections in order to be fair.

  • old_timer_37

    This is part of a nationwide systematic disenfranchisement of the poor, elderly and minorities… who statistically favor Democrats. Republican State legislatures in Ohio, Florida, and several other states have cut early voting times and increased identification requirements. I suspect that Republican victories in 2012 will lead to more voter suppression by 2014. And yet… so many people continue to vote to disenfranchise themselves.

  • Anonymous

    At this time I wouldf like to see exactly where the same Unions that defeated Hb5 are, they need to m,ake surer this idiot is put on the street for going against a federal decree. Lets see just how far the Unions will stand up for Ohio, we’re all in this togeather … right?

  • 56Pixels

    True to right-wing form, if you can’t win an election on the merit of your policies or your candidate, just steal one. This isn’t Ohio’s first dance, 2004 with SoS Ken Blackwell, or 2000 Florida with SoS Katherine Harris. This is how Florida and Ohio do business. Count Florida Gov. Scott’s early voting antics as an accomplice.There is nothing, absolutely nothing, these people won’t do in their pursuit of office. Desperate people will do desperate things.

  • Anonymous

    Too obviously fishy. This kind of boldface tactic is why we have such a divided country. At times it makes our enemies’ rational about our country too real. I’m fed up with wasting lives and money on this kind of chicanery.

  • Casey

    It has also been reported that Husted’s office installed last minute uncertified and untested software on the central vote tabulation machines in up to 39 counties. There was a hearing to determine whether these machines will be thrown out (or at least have hand counting in these counties) this morning. There should be a ruling before noon.

  • http://www.facebook.com/al.connor2 Al Connor

    The old GOP guard is desperate! Sounds like Florida in 2000 all over again! Well maybe the dinosaurs on the SC will figure it out as we slowly lose our democracy.

  • m k

    Republicans are cheats. They can’t win fairly, so they do what they can to steal.

  • Anonymous

    The republicans are the party of cheaters… we know this… they have no shame whatsoever…

  • http://www.facebook.com/susie.arena Susie Snellgrove Arena

    Just a ploy to delay the inevitable!! Not count votes that have already been cast – unconsititutional!!

  • FormerRepublican

    The real shame of the Jon Husted situation is that it is not isolated – that the Republican party seeks to disenfranchise voters in many, many states. This is not the Republican party of my youth. The Republican Party has been taken over by Wall Street firms, insurance companies, and other monied interests who promote a “win at all costs” philosophy and who neglect their responsibilities to govern responsibly through engagement and, where necessary, thoughtful compromise.. While I don’t agree with all of the Democratic Party’s positions, I could not remain in a party that caters to “big business” and which seeks to disenfranchise voters. I joined the Democratic Party a year ago, after 35 years of being a Republican. Jon Husted’s actions, and so many actions like his, are a big part of the reason why.

  • Clearwater3

    Ok – Enough. Round up those responsible; imprison and fine heavily. This is not winning and election its criminal activity.

  • Are You Kidding Me?

    This last minute maneuver is ILLEGAL, hopefully the Judge wasn’t bought and will Hear the case and rule in favor of the Voters. Notwithstanding, these ID’s are typical things any consumer has at one time or another. Hopefully because of what’s occurred there and in Florida in past Elections Folks have one of the ID’s with them. Up East, WBLS/WDAS talked about this voter tampering A LOT so most folks Here are prepared!

  • Are You Kidding Me?

    THIS is what PA and Ohio needed Today!

    HOUSTON TEXANS PLAYERS
    Teaming Up to Help
    Senior Citizens Vote

    EXCLUSIVE

    Several Houston Texans players — past and present — are banding together today to make sure their local senior citizens don’t get screwed out of their right to vote … TMZ has learned.

    Former Texans offensive lineman Chester Pitts has organized a group of his gigantic NFL friends to help shuttle seniors in the Houston area to their local polling place.

    We’re told Pitts has rented several 15-passenger vans … and will transport the elderly for the mission … and will be joined by several current Texans linemen including Duane Brown (DT), Antoine Caldwell (C), Chris Myers (C) … along with safety Danieal Manning.

    Some of Chester’s former Houston teammates are also expected to help out … including Moran Norris, Travis Johnson and Charlie Anderson.

    “I’m a firm believer that everyone has their own voice and has the right to be heard,” Pitts tells TMZ.

    Read more: http://www.tmz.com#ixzz2BT5i2uUd

  • http://www.facebook.com/khuebschervanaacken Kay Huebscher Van Aacken

    This guy is a douche and should be ousted from office!! Prime example of obstructionism. This is not needed and voting fraud is the grand lie.

  • http://twitter.com/Sporifix Sporifix

    I wonder why the systematic attempts to disenfranchise voters by the Republican Party isn’t worthy of an FBI or Justice Dept. RICO investigation.

  • anodyne

    I had to go to three polling places today before I finally found the correct one for my address. I only spent about five minutes each in the first two places, yet I saw and heard over ten people who were also in the wrong places. Before today, I have never had any trouble finding my correct polling station, nor have I ever seen in all my 41 years of voting, more than 1 or 2 people confused about their correct location. By the way, I live near downtown Nashville, TN, in a mixed-race working class neighborhood, feared by the wealthy for its integrated nature and (nonexistent) “high crime rate.” I am livid. Among the ten+ people mentioned, I saw separately a total of six elderly African American ladies, some walking with canes, others having difficulty walking, having to make unexpected trips between polling places because of this redistricting. They did not complain. Every one of them simply said, okay, I’ll go there.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NSZY3B4434INC2SKNO3FATQTYM PeteJ

    you can’t just make this stuff up……..it’s actually “real”…..pathetic

  • Pandora55

    This man should be impeached. I hope that charges will be brought against him since he is going against a judicial decree and manipulating it to fit his agenda. Voting is a fundamental right and voting suppression must be condemned. I agree that it should be uniform across the board and nationwide.

  • David

    Once the 2012 election is over, it’s time that a grass roots movement is formed to make the voting registration laws uniform on a national level. Get the corporations, Wall Street interests and big money out of our political system.

  • Art Burns

    There is a built in trick with the issuance of provisional ballots that is very difficult to detect..When poll watching near Columbus in 2008, I observed a consistent flow of black voters emerging with provisional ballots having been told that records “showed” they had requested absentee ballots- whereas in fact they had not. Upon on site investigation, a Republican poll worker admitted to “innocent” errors in looking at the roll books. Something to be aware of!.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000296782688 Connie NoRomneyever Mauricio

    Romney has how many electoral votes? Oh yeah, 206, another 18 would not matter. What I am curious to know, is why Rove is so insistent Romney should have won Ohio? What underhanded thing did they do there, that did not turn out as they planned?