There’s just something fundamentally wrong and, well, unAmerican about this.
A federal appeals court in Cincinnati today decided two cases related to Ohio’s provisional voting procedures, ruling that it is unconstitutional to toss out ballots that are cast in the incorrect voting precinct due to poll-worker error.
Ohio law “effectively requires voters to have a greater knowledge of their precinct, precinct ballot, and polling place than poll workers,” the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit said.
Ohioans cast 200,000 provisional ballots in the 2008 elections, and 14,000 of those were rejected for being cast in the wrong precinct. Given that the state increasingly uses polling locations that serve voters from more than one precinct and that 13 different classes of voters are required to use provisional ballots, the reality exists that “thousands” of ballots would be tossed out “where the voter’s only mistake was relying on the poll-worker’s precinct guidance,” the judges said.
“This is the most important decision in this election cycle,” election law expert Rick Hasen wrote on the “Election Law Blog.”
It is the second time in as many weeks that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has ruled against Ohio in election-related cases.
Just last week, it blocked changes made to Ohio’s early voting rules that allowed some military voters to cast ballots in the three days before Election Day while barring nonmilitary voters from doing the same. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to grant an emergency stay in that case until the court can hear the state’s appeal.
Given the sanctity of the vote, how can government officials actively seek to disenfranchise thousands of its citizens in such a fashion? It’s unconscionable.
In the Ohio case, the effort is being championed by a Republican attorney general and Republican secretary of state. “Clearly, Republicans want to limit last-minute early voting, which in 2008 was most heavily used by less-affluent, minority voters,” the Cleveland Plain Dealer points out. The same motivation drives the effort to throw out thousands of ballots cast in the wrong precinct; that problem pops up far more often in urban settings, where precincts are much smaller and lines more confusing, than in suburban and rural areas dominated by Republicans.
There can be no justification for such efforts, and the Ohio example gives the larger GOP game away. They are engaged in a shamelessly partisan effort to deny the ballot to eligible, legitimate voters, and if you have to stoop to tactics like that to win, in a sense you have already lost.
– Jay Bookman