Ohio’s elections chief is violating the state constitution by requiring county election boards to follow a federal court decree instead of state law when it comes to counting provisional ballots, GOP lawmakers alleged in a lawsuit Monday. At issue are requirements for providing identification when a voter has to cast a provisional ballot, typically a ballot cast in the wrong precinct. A 2006 state law laid out the requirements for when such ballots are counted, starting with voters who have only the last four digits of a Social Security number as identification. In general, state law is more restrictive than the federal decree when it comes to prohibiting provisional ballots. For example, the law doesn’t allow provisional ballots for votes cast in the wrong precinct because of a poll worker’s mistake, whereas the decree would allow such votes to be counted.
A 2006 lawsuit by advocates for homeless voters challenged the state law, and in 2010 then-Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, entered into a federal consent decree that was more lenient when it comes to provisional ballots. Current Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, has issued orders to county election boards telling them to follow the consent decree when dealing with provisional ballots.