Nearly 12 percent of absentee and provisional ballots rejected by Ohio elections boards in 2014 and 2015 general elections were bounced for technical issues, according to documents filed in federal court Thursday. Those technical issues — names that don’t exactly match voter records, missing or incorrect dates of birth, improper voter ID or conflicts in voters’ addresses — are the target of a lawsuit. The suit claims that state rules enacted in 2014 violate constitutional rights and disproportionately hurt African-American, Latino and poor voters. In addition to identifying 4,105 ballots disqualified for technical errors, data collected by the plaintiffs show that the rate of disqualification varies widely from county to county. In the 10 largest counties, that rate was as low as 1 percent and as high as 24.8 percent. Unless the boards of elections are able to contact a voter to get a ballot corrected, the voter’s ballot may not be counted and the voter may never know.
Articles about voting issues in Ohio.
For nearly two years, election officials in Northeast Ohio have known that the state’s failure to keep pace with modernization at the U.S. Post Office could result in absentee ballots getting tossed, even if voters followed the rules perfectly. Beacon Journal interviews last week revealed that officials in at least Summit, Stark and Portage counties were aware in 2014 that a problem loomed as the U.S. Postal Service increasingly used bar codes to process mail and did not print the time and date across the postage stamp. State law continues to require an old-fashioned postmark, and as a result last year, nearly 1,800 absentee ballots were rejected in Summit and Cuyahoga counties alone. Now, with Ohioans only weeks away from voting in a highly charged presidential primary — and their governor among the contenders — the issue remains unresolved and there is no guarantee that ballots dropped in the mailbox will get counted.
Ohio: Christian group, tea party activists urge delay in online voter registration | The Columbus Dispatch
If Ohio is going to implement online voter registration, it should be delayed until after the presidential election, the leader of a coalition that includes a religious group and tea party activists told lawmakers Tuesday. The website could be hacked, and thus it’s a poor decision to try to implement online voter registration during a high-volume, high-stakes presidential election, Christopher Long, president of the Ohio Christian Alliance, told a House committee. But lawmakers in both parties pushed back against his concerns. Rep. Louis “Bill” Blessing, R-Cincinnati, questioned if any other states have encountered security issues with their online systems.
Ohio: Cuyahoga County elections officials find 250 ballots should have counted as plan to fix broken voting system stalls | Akron Beacon Journal
Elections officials in Cuyahoga County have discovered that 250 invalidated votes should have counted in Ohio’s last statewide election. But the discovery, which other counties can duplicate for about $500, will not change how Ohio runs the upcoming presidential election without action from state leaders. In a post-election analysis, Sean Webster of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections reviewed roughly 1,500 absentee ballots that arrived after the polls closed on Nov. 2. About 900 lacked postmarks, which would clearly state when the ballots were mailed. Another 563 were postmarked too late. All were tossed out. Statewide, about half of 7,244 late-arriving ballots lacked postmarks. “Proportionally,” Webster said of the same issue in Summit County, “we had significantly fewer ballots that needed thrown out. And we think that’s because we use a smaller envelope.”
With presidential primary elections two months away, the U.S. Postal Service has yet to explain why nearly 9 percent of Summit County mail-in ballots were missing postmarks and had to be thrown out. And no one has come up with a solution for the future. The unusually high number of botched ballots led the Summit Board of Elections to subpoena postmasters to a hearing last month. While postal officials skipped the hearing, Ohio Secretary of State John Husted’s office has since taken up the issue statewide. During the last presidential election in 2012, more than one-third of Ohio voters mailed their ballots.
Ohio: Husted says he’s intent on finding fix to absentee-ballot postmark issues | The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said he isn’t sure the U.S. Postal Service has a solution to the postmark issues that plagued absentee ballots during last year’s general election. Speaking at the Ohio Association of Election Officials Convention at the Hilton Downtown Columbus on Wednesday, he said it was partially up to election workers to figure out a solution to the problem. “We don’t need to look at blame. We need to look at a way forward,” Husted said. Ohio voter law allows absentee ballots to be counted if their postmark date falls before Election Day, even if the ballots don’t arrive until after. In November, 1,523 ballots were not counted because the U.S. Post Office did not postmark them. “My priority is to ensure voters who follow the law that their votes will be counted,” said Husted, a Republican.
After years of inaction, lawmakers are getting closer to having Ohio join most other states in allowing people to register to vote online, saving government money. “Online registration can boost participation while improving efficiency, ensuring accuracy and preventing fraud at the same time. It’s a classic win-win,” Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Copley, told a House committee on Tuesday. The bill, which the Senate passed 31-1 in June, expands the current system that allows voters to update their home addresses online — a system that Ohioans have used 295,000 times since August 2012. Secretary of State Jon Husted has argued for years that online voter registration would be more secure, convenient and accurate in addition to being less expensive than current paper registrations. The bill is backed by county elections officials, county commissioners and veterans groups.
While there’s still no solution for what happened in November, when 861 voters were silenced after the post office failed to postmark absentee ballots, county elections officials are looking to a relatively tiny race in Norton to ensure they play no part in future screw-ups.
Summit County Board of Elections officials have devised a plan to determine, as quickly as possible, if votes are misplaced between the poll workers who collect them and the staff who count them. The plan, to be tested in Norton on Tuesday, involves comparing the number of ballots sent to each polling location with the number that return as either voted, voided or set aside as provisional ballots, which are counted after workers check voter eligibility.
Ohio: State Supreme Court rules in blogger Randy Simes’s voting rights case | Cincinnati Business Courier
A Cincinnati native who is owner and managing editor of UrbanCincy.com has the right to vote in Hamilton County while living in South Korea for his job, the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled. In a 6-1 decision, the court ruled that the Hamilton County Board of Elections did not abuse its discretion in 2013 when it decided that Randy Simes had the right to vote here. The court upheld both the Board of Elections’ decision and a Hamilton County Appellate Court ruling. Two people – Barbara Holwadel and Steven Johnson – pursued the case, which started when Simes voted in the 2013 Cincinnati mayoral primary between John Cranley and Roxanne Qualls, all the way to the state’s highest court.
Gov. John Kasich says he wants to change the way Ohio draws congressional districts, but other supporters of the idea say it will take a change of heart by Ohio’s federal lawmakers to make it happen. Ohio’s congressional districts are currently drawn by the legislature, which can gerrymander districts to favor the party that controls the chambers. The process has led to a number of districts that make little geographic sense, allow for few competitive races and have given Republicans 12 of 16 seats. “I support redistricting reform dramatically,” Kasich said last week. “This will be something I’m going to do whether I’m elected president or whether I’m here. We carve these safe districts, and then when you’re in a safe district you have to watch your extremes, and you keep moving to the extremes.”