The Serious Flaw With Ohio’s Plan To Count Provisional Ballots

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The Serious Flaw With Ohio’s Plan To Count Provisional Ballots

Aviva Shen

Thousands of Ohio voters have been falsely notified that they are not registered to vote due to a database error in Ohio’s voter rolls. An Ohio voter advocacy group alerted Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) to this major system problem on October 30. But instead of fixing it, Husted issued a directive instructing local boards to use the same flawed search method to count provisional ballots after Election Day.

Ohio’s computer search of the voter registration database will only find exact matches, meaning that voters could come up as unregistered due to typos, abbreviations, or partial entries. This flawed search mechanism missed huge numbers of registered voters in Franklin and Cuyahoga Counties, incorrectly rejecting 33,000 requests for absentee ballots. These two counties corrected the error, but thousands of others may have slipped through the cracks in the rest of the state. These voters were told they are not registered to vote and may be forced to use provisional ballots at the polls.

But if they do decide to file provisional ballots, along with a growing number of other legal voters in the state, the very same search method could disenfranchise their vote entirely. Husted has ignored warnings that the system is missing large numbers of registered voters. As the Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates, who first discovered the problem, explain:

Worse yet, Sec. Husted last night released a Directive with a proposed search method for Boards of Elections to verify registration status on provisional ballots. Yet Sec. Husted’s latest recommendations for search are entirely inadequate, likely to miss thousands of voters because of mis-spelling of names, variation in form of ID, failure to use all available tools for a reasonable search and other reasons. Once again, our warnings and suggestions, sent this morning, have gone unanswered. Unless this inadequacy is corrected, several thousand provisional ballots could be wrongfully rejected as “not registered.” If the election is close, this could be a source of endless legal battles.

NOVA has outlined an alternative, more accurate search method that will result in far fewer mistakes. Husted’s office has not yet responded.

Husted’s directive also jeopardizes legal ballots by shifting the burden of proof on the contested voter, even though Ohio law requires the poll worker to fill out the form. A federal judge will hear the case the morning after Election Day.


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