A federal appeals court on Wednesday ordered boards of election in Ohio to count provisional election ballots for the 2018 midterm elections that are cast by certain people previously purged from the state’s voter rolls. A three-judge panel from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that votes cast by people purged from the rolls between 2011 and 2015 must be counted if they still live in the same county of their last registration and if they are not disqualified from voting because of a felony conviction, mental incapacity or death. The panel’s injunction comes as progressive advocacy groups appeal Senior U.S. District Judge George Smith’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit against Secretary of State Jon Husted that said notices the state sent to inactive voters were inadequate under federal law. Should the groups be successful on appeal, some voters may be wrongly denied the ability to vote unless the injunction is in place, the panel wrote.
It comes six days before the Nov. 6 election date and well into the period where Ohio residents can vote early.
Naila Awan, an attorney for the legal group Demos representing two groups that sued Husted over the voter purge, said the injunction could affect a few thousand voters whose ballots would otherwise not be counted. More than 7,500 voters had their provisional ballots counted under the aforementioned guidelines in the 2016 presidential election, the 6th Circuit judges wrote.
She said all people who think they are eligible to vote should cast provisional ballots, in the chance the ballots may be counted. She also noted that many races in Ohio have been decided by slim margins.
Husted, a Republican running for lieutenant governor on a ticket with Attorney General Mike DeWine, said Wednesday that he disagreed with the ruling but that it is “temporary and narrow in scope.” He said he will not appeal to avoid “an unnecessary source of contention with an election only five days away.”