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  • Ohioblog: A Swing State Journal

    Friday, October 15, 2004

    Ohio voters get a provisional OK 

    U.S. District Judge James Carr got it right when he slapped down Ohio's restrictive provisional voting ruling by Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell. The problem for Ohio voters is that the state is appealing and Carr's ruling could be overturned.

    Ohio is an unfair, unfriendly state for voters. Its lawmakers and elected officials, such as Blackwell, interpret voter friendly federal laws such as the Help America Vote Act in the most callous manner possible. When the idea is to allow people to cast provisional ballots if they have moved and haven't updated their registrations or for some unexplained reason don't appear on the voting rolls, Blackwell would apply the most restrictive definition of the jurisdiction in which this can take place - that is, the voter's precinct.

    Judge Carr, appointed to the federal bench in Toledo in 1994 by President Clinton, sees voting more generously and says provisional votes should be accepted anywhere in the voter's county and then judged whether valid. Blackwell, who wants to be governor, has appealed and is relying, in part, on the fact that 25 other states and the District of Columbia apply the same pitiless restriction to provisional voting.

    ``Refusal to allow provisional balloting at the `wrong' precinct, as (Blackwell's directive) seeks to do, furthers no state interest,'' Carr wrote. ``If even a single vote is lost due to the failure to implement (the law), that loss alone is irreparable. Lessened participation at the polls diminishes the vitality of our democracy.''

    What lessened participation does do is improve a Republicans chances of victories since such provisional votes tend to be Democratic. In 2000 there were 100,000 provisional ballots cast in Ohio, which President Bush won by only 165,019 votes over Al Gore. There are 500,000 new registrants in Ohio for this election. Do you think all of them will manage to get to the correct polling place?

    While a person's vote should not count on local issues for which they are not qualified to address because of where they live, their vote in the presidential election should count if they are registered and vote within their county. It shouldn't work one way in one state and another way in the next. This is a federal issue. But leave it to Ohio's Republican-run state government to take the low road.

    ``We continue to believe that Ohio's law's are fair, just and in compliance with all the federal statutes,'' Blackwell said in a written statement.

    In 2000, an estimated 1.5 million voters nationwide were wrongly denied ballots because of registration mistakes. Since Ohio is a swing state critical to both sides, it should double and redouble its efforts to assure that every voter can vote and every vote is counted.

    Think again, Ken, about that ``fair and just'' part of Ohio law.

    posted by Ohioblog: A Swing State Journal at 10:50 AM

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