A federal judge has made permanent his earlier order that Ohio must count provisional ballots cast in the right polling place but wrong precinct — so-called right church, wrong pew ballots. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley last week addresses voting errors at polling locations where more than one precinct conducts voting and a poll worker directed the voter to the wrong precinct. It makes permanent rules used in the 2012 election. The decision drew praise from voting advocates who said to do otherwise would punish voters when poll workers mistakenly sent them to the wrong place to vote. Misdirected voters could cast provisional ballots, but prior to the injunction their ballots could be rejected for being cast at the wrong precinct.
With this permanent injunction, provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct will be counted unless a poll worker has determined the voter’s correct precinct and directed the voter there, but the voter disregards that information and votes in the wrong precinct anyway, according to the ruling.
“If the county board of elections cannot verify that the poll worker directed the voter to the correct precinct, the votes cast on the provisional ballot must be counted in all races and for all issues for which the voter would have been eligible to vote if he/she had cast the ballot in the correct precinct,” Marbley wrote in his ruling.
The decision deals with two suits filed in federal court against Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. Service Employees International Union is the plaintiff in one. Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless is plaintiff in the other.