Thursday, October 07, 2004


Provisional ballots issue gets murkier

As reported here earlier, the Cuyahoga Co. election board said it would defy SOS Ken Blackwell's directive not to give provisional ballots to voters who show up at the wrong precinct.

Yesterday, several radio reports indicated that other election boards might join the Cleveland-area board, boards like Franklin Co. and Montgomery Co.

Now, however, according to today's Dispatch story, it seems that at least the Franklin Co. board is unsure what to do and the Franklin Co. democratic party is sending some mixed signals. Furthermore, Blackwell is hyperventilating and saying he'll seek the removal of all board members who defy his directive.

Here is what seems to be the crux of the issue, if the Dispatch story is accurate: Ohio state law does not permit that a vote to be counted if it was cast in the wrong precinct. Let me recast this in another way. Theoretically, Blackwell could relent - or the county boards could defy him - and let voters show up in wrong precinct cast a provisional ballot. But that doesn't really resolve the issue because it seems that Blackwell (and his Republican proxies) will try to keep the provisional vote from being counted.

Does this violate HAVA? According to the Dispatch,

"[HAVA] says any qualified voter who asks for a provisional ballot shall receive one. But the section also says the vote will be counted according to state law — which in Ohio says votes cast outside a voter’s precinct are illegal."

Letting people cast provisional ballots in the wrong precinct is apparently not something new. Franklin Co. Democratic Party officials seem to agree. Bill Anthony, county chairman of the party, was quoted as saying, "There's a lot of us that probably broke he law in an effort to have folks' vote counted.

One thing that baffles me is why Blackwell is waving his sword over this. He clearly knows that a federal judge is to rule on he ballot issue by Oct. 15. What does he gain by making threats at this point? As in this case, it just keeps the issue alive in the press which doesn't engender new support for Blackwell.

I know it sounds a little far fetched, but it sounds like he intends to either defy the federal ruling if it doesn't go his way or take pre-emptive action to remove board members before the election - or both.


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