As was reported in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Columbus Dispatch, NEOCH filed suit regarding the counting of provisional ballots with SB 216 against the State of Ohio. This is an extension of our 2006 lawsuit regarding identification and voting. Our settlement was that homeless people without ID had a right to vote. This typically involved provisional ballots, and so we had an interest in making sure that the County Boards of Elections counted the provisional ballots.
The new law required completion of the envelope without a mistake and would throw out the entire ballot if their were errors in the completion of the absentee or provisional ballot. The problem was that there was not a standard that each County had to meet. We attempted to negotiate a directive to clarify the law with the Secretary of State. For a Secretary of State who was pushing for standard early voting hours, he would want a standard counting method throughout the state for absentee and provisional ballots. We are afraid that there would be some counties who reject most of their provisional ballots on highly technical grounds while others would be more permissive.
These were the same plaintiffs involved in the 2006 lawsuit who fought to allow low income voters to vote even if they did not have an ID. We worked on this lawsuit since the summer and negotiated with the State over clarifications. We were not looking for a decision before the current election, but we want the federal courts to decide if voter intent should count as opposed to the ability to follow sometimes confusing instructions. Ohio should try to figure out a way to enfranchise as many voters as possible including those who have a difficult time understanding the written word.
We hope that the court will allow us discovery in this case to see the impact on SB 216 on voting in Ohio. We hope to be able to take a look at the percentage of rejected ballots across the state to see if there are discrepancies from one county to the next.
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