A federal judge ordered Ohio Secretary of State John Hustad (R) to figure out a way to count tens of thousands of provisional ballots rather than reject them, handing Republicans anther loss in attempts to throw Ohio’s 18 electoral college votes to Mitt Romney. And while Hustad filed an immediate appeal, Republicans may want to re-think this litigation strategy, for the longer Republicans try to defend the last-minute directive to throw out thousands of votes, the worse they sound.
Provisional ballots include those cast when voters don’t bring proper ID to the polls or cast them in the wrong precinct. Many of these mistakes happen as a result of redistricting and, thanks to heavy Republican electoral gains in 2010 and the resulting gerrymandering and push for voter restrictions, more voters than ever ended up having the votes considered “provisional.”
Voting rights advocates thought there was an enforceable agreement in place about the standards for counting such ballots late in October when a federal judge entered a consent decree: (1) acknowledging that poll workers were required to record identification information offered by a voter and (2) making Ohio responsible, and thus the ballot otherwise valid, if any poll workers made errors while collecting or transcribing that information.
But the Friday evening before the election, around 7:00 pm to be more exact, Hustad tried to back out of the count-order. By means of a directive, he instructed local election officials to reject any ballots where the information was mistakenly recorded, absolving poll workers of the responsibility to properly complete the form. It is impossible to know just how many registered voters would lose their vote thanks to this directive. The order issued Tuesday means for now, and until the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has a say, we won’t know.
Should the appellate court affirm the order, then state election officials have until the end of November to come to an agreement on how to count all the ballots.
Aren’t we glad the outcome of the election didn’t depend on Ohio?
Photo from adria.richards via flickr.