Why Your Ballot May Not Count

When a voter goes to the polls to vote and there are questions about their eligibility, like their name doesn’t exactly match what’s on their registration, or there is a problem with their ID or their name does not appear on the registration list, or they have moved and not updated their address on file at the Board of Elections, that person has the right to cast a provisional ballot after which their eligibility is determined by the County staff.  Provisional ballots will be included in the final results of the election if the local election board determines that the individual was eligible to vote and they voted in the proper precinct.  If the board of elections determines that individual was not entitled to vote, the provisional ballot is rejected and does not count in the final election results. 

We at NEOCH believe every individual, homeless or not should be encouraged to register and then get out and vote.  Over the years we have fought for that very right and to make the process as easy and seamless as possible.   Since the founding of the Coalition voting has been critical to our mission.  In fact, we worked with the County to making voter registration a part of the intake process that shelters are measured on. 

To be eligible to vote in an election you should be a citizen of the US who is above 18 years of age and not currently incarcerated on a felony.  In 2014, the law was changed adding additional items to both the provisional and absentee ballots.  They also mandated that ballots be tossed for minor errors.  Making a typo on your form or leaving off one piece of information even if there is enough information to determine who you are results in your ballot being tossed.  If you are an elderly person or have literacy issues or have a hard time with a confusing form, should not be a reason to have your vote rejected.  On the provisional ballot form there is a heading to the left of the page that says Former address, but on the right side of the form across from it, it says, "Have you moved without updating your voter registration?"  If you mark yes, below it says street address:  You would have to look back to the left, separated by a thick black line on the form to see it was the former address that they were looking for.  Many elderly people did not get it.  They put their current address in the box and left their actual address box empty and their ballot was disregarded.  These people had a signature and name to compare; they had a date of birth; they had the last 4 digits of their social security number or their driver’s license number BUT their current address was in the wrong place and their vote was discarded.

Many provisional ballots are being thrown out by our local Board of Elections. We have looked at these ballots and some of the reasons are below.  The following is a list of reasons we have found that provisional ballots have been rejected and the person’s vote was not counted.  Some of the ballots did not have an actual reason and the below reasons are what we could figure out:

  • A person had last 4 digits of their social and last 4 digits of their driver’s license.  The instructions said: For ID – last 4 digits of your social or Ohio Driver’s license number.  Person put last 4 of social and ONLY last 4 of Ohio Driver’s License.  It was not accepted.
  • A person made a mistake on the first digit of the last four digits of social and clearly wrote the correct number over top of it.  It was bold and dark, it was obvious it was the correct number but it was thrown out.
  • Another person put the 4 numbers of their address in the wrong boxes and went back and corrected over top.  There was a SS#, date of birth and a signature to verify, and their vote was still thrown out.
  • A person put their SS in the OH DL box and put an arrow pointing down to the SS# boxes where it should have been and it was thrown out.  It was clear what they meant.
  • A person left their printed name off of the line that said NAME: __________________and the rest of the form was fine.  She signed her name and the signature was very legible, but they did not count the vote because the name was not printed in the appropriate box. The written signature was very clear as to the person’s name.  There was no doubt!
  • A person went to the wrong polling location and the poll worker did not provide help to the voter and gave the man a provisional ballot to vote at the wrong precinct and then his ballot was rejected.
  • A person had a good signature, date of birth, last 4 digits of social security, street address and driver’s license number but left off their city – Cleveland and State – Ohio, their address consisted of the numbers of the address and street name, so their ballot was thrown out.  The rest of the address was on this person’s registration.
  • A person’s vote was thrown out by a typo on their zip code.  A zip code was put on the eligibility form as 44109 when it was actually 44119. All other parts of the address were correct, the DOB matched, the driver’s license was present, the last 4 of the social were present and the person showed their ID to the election official but the typo on the zip seems to be the reason her vote was thrown out.
  • Another person born in the 1930’s printed their zip 1 digit off and made a mistake on their last 4 of their social security number and corrected the social by writing darker over top of the incorrect numeral.  Even though there was a date of birth, signature to match and the last 4 of their ss#, their vote was thrown out.
  • There was a woman accidently put her city in the box for her last name.  Her signature was clear; all the other information was correct and the information was printed on the absentee ballot correctly. 
  • There were individuals in jail on misdemeanor charges (so they were eligible to vote), and could not figure out if the jail address should be listed on the current address box or could not remember the address that they had used for their registration. They were a couple of digits off, but had no way to open their wallet to check their address from a jail cell. 

Many provisional ballots were thrown out with Dates of Birth, Driver’s License numbers, last 4 digits of SS# and addresses on the form.  It seemed like there was plenty of information to verify the person’s identity.  Many of the votes that were thrown out were elderly people, 60 -80+ years old who took the time to go to the polls and vote or took the time to mail in their ballot.  There has to be a better way to make sure that people who take the time to go to the polls or send in their ballot by mail have their vote counted!

by Denise Toth

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.