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The Tally Ho

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Blackwell Strikes Again

First Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell tried to stop the voter rolls from increasing by using paper weight as an excuse do deny voter registrations. Since he lost that battle, Mr. Blackwell is now trying to restrict provisional ballots for individuals that show up at the wrong polling place. Many provisional ballots allow the voter to vote at any polling place for statewide elections such as President, Senator, Governor, or a statewide referendum (please correct me if I am not totally accurate here). Seems reasonable, right? Wrong - and its a state law.
Blackwell also ordered election boards to send voters who show up at the wrong polling place to their correct polling place instead of letting them cast a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots ordinarily are provided to registered voters who have moved but not updated their registration. The ballots are set aside and then inspected to make sure they are valid. More than 100,000 provisional votes were cast in the 2000 election.

Officials in Cuyahoga County — the state's largest — said they will do their best to send voters to the right precinct but will also accept provisional ballots. On Tuesday, Blackwell told the board that failure to comply with his order "will result in official action, which may include removal of the board and its director."

The Ohio Democratic Party sued, saying federal law allows voters to cast provisional ballots at any polling place in their home county. The Democrats said Blackwell's ruling disproportionately affects poor and minority voters, who tend to move more often. A ruling could come by Oct. 15.

On Tuesday, a coalition of unions and voter rights groups filed a similar lawsuit.

Blackwell said federal law allows states to set the rules for provisional voting, and Ohio law requires that ballots be cast in the correct polling place.

If the vote on Election Day is close, he said, "I anticipate there are some who will try to create a situation where lawyers are fussing at each other with a 70-year-old poll worker in between them."

Good news is that the DNC voter registration sounds as if it has been a huge success in the swing states. The Zobgy numbers out today suggest Kerry has a 322-216 EV advantage - though a very slim margins in Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Nevada (don't forget new voters are missed). If it remains this close there will be legal challenges, hopefully Kerry is better funded and prepared than Gore was.

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