Yesterday Judge Algenon Marbley has once again ruled in our favor of protecting all legal voters in Ohio and assuring that their ballot are counted. (I still do not understand why the Plain Dealer does not use our name in the coverage of this court case. This is our hometown paper but referred to us as a "local homeless coalition?") We have documented the progess of this case here, and here. This latest decision orders the state to issue an order to the local boards of elections that they must count all provisional ballots including those which are submitted as a result of poll worker error. Jon Husted, Ohio Secretary of State, and a spokesperson has already told the media that he plans to appeal the order. The story was picked up by a number of national outlets including this story in the Washington Post.
“Recent experience proves that our elections are decided, all too often, by improbably slim margins — not just in local races . . . but even for the highest national offices,” U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley wrote. “Any potential threat to the integrity of the franchise, no matter how small, must therefore be treated with the utmost seriousness.”
The problem with Husted continued appeal of this case which goes back to 2006 is that it confuses the electorate. We only have 40 days until the registration deadline, and the state has not given clear directions to the local boards over voting procedures for the November election. Husted is creating an atmosphere of uncertainty over the election, which will just produce questions in the mind of the voters. Most see all this debate and all these lawsuits as undermining the confidence in voting procedures.
Husted took on this fight. This was a settled issue with an agreement signed in 2010 that would have extended until 2013. There was no reason to wade back into this issue. He could have spent his time working on ways to train poll workers on the proper procedures, providing guidance to the local boards on how to work to count every vote, and provide every opportunity to broaden the number of voters. Instead he limited voting hours, cancelled our agreement, and injected politics into every single decision.
The close case of 23 votes separating two juvenile court judges in Cincinnati were instructive on the power of the provisional voting. The initial winner, a Republican, saw his victory turn into a loss after provisional votes were counted using the directive from our agreement. After two years of fighting in Hamilton County, the courts decided to count all the votes including those in which the poll worker instructed the voter incorrectly. This resulted in Tracie Hunter, a Democrat, won the election and took her seat earlier this year. It provides a living example of why this agreement is so important for the voters of Ohio.
Just because some poorly trained worker tells a voter to go to the wrong table to vote or tells the voter to incorrectly fill out the form that should not result in that voters entire ballot being wasted. It is crazy to think that the voter did everything they were told to do, and their vote for President, Senator, House member or local school board levy is thrown away. This is an indefensible position that the court agreed with us that we need these rules to protect voters.
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