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.
The lawsuit filed by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, Columbus Coalition for the Homeless and Ohio Democratic Party was originally filed in 2006 with then-Secretary of State Ken Blackwell as the defendant. The judge has issued orders in the case, but it has continued on as new issues were added. Secretary of State Jon Husted now is the defendant.
In 2014 the plaintiffs challenged two laws pushed through the General Assembly on party line votes.
Those laws, which took effect in mid 2014, require voters to provide their address and date of birth when casting an absentee ballot and require election workers to reject absentee and provisional ballots for errors made on identification statements.