With two Ohio House races hanging in the balance, Democratic lawmakers threatened a lawsuit today over provisional ballots they contend are improperly being thrown out at the direction of GOP Secretary of State Jon Husted. “We urge Secretary Husted to work with us and take immediate action to avoid costly litigation and to rightfully count the votes of all Ohioans,” said Rep.Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent. “The stakes are very high with this provisional ballot crisis, and Ohioans’ rights are in the balance. Let’s work together, fix these problems, and count the votes.” The answer from Matt McClellan, spokesman for Husted: “We disagree with the representative from the 68th district (Clyde) as this is simply another attempt to create controversy where none exists. We are confident in our reading of the law, which has been affirmed by the 6th (U.S.) Circuit Court of Appeals. We are required to follow the law and uphold the integrity of the process.”
Automatic recounts have been triggered in two legislative races. In Tuscarawas County, Dover Rep. Al Landis’ lead in the 98th District race has been trimmed to just 14 votes out of more than 47,000 cast over Democrat Josh O’Farrell. In Cuyahoga County, Rep. Mike Dovilla, R-Berea, led Democrat Matt Patten by 119 votes. If Democrats lose both races, Republicans – who easily control the Senate – will have large enough majorities to put constitutional amendments on the ballot without a single Democratic vote.
Rep. Debbie Phillips, D-Athens, who appeared with Clyde at today’s press conference, said 114 provisional ballots have been tossed out in the Tuscarawaw County contest and 270 in the Cuyahoga County race. She pointed to problems in the former county in which some voters were given plain brown manila envelopes instead of the official provisional ballot envelopes – part of which must be completed by the voter or the ballot won’t be counted.
The national “motor voter” act of 1993 requires certain ballots cast in a voter’s former precinct to be counted – as long as voter’s former precinct is in the same county and same congressional district as the new address, Clyde said. “Ohio is rejecting these ballots in violation of federal law,” she added.
Clyde said the U.S. Civil Rights Act also prohibits votes from being thrown out due to a poll worker’s paperwork mistakes, but “Ohio throws out countless ballots for this reason.”