This presidential election year, millions of Ohioans will be exercising — and already are exercising, in the early-voting period — their precious right to vote. But because of recent federal court decisions, it’s more important than ever that Ohioans protect their franchise by taking extra steps to make sure their right to vote is not being illegally abridged and that their votes will be counted. One recent federal court ruling, for instance, determined that thousands of Ohioans were purged illegally from state voting rolls going back to 2011. How to protect these voters’ rights to vote in the Nov. 8 election was not resolved until last week, when a federal judge ruled that certain voters absent from the voting rolls must be allowed to cast a provisional ballot. It’s important that all Ohio voters now take affirmative steps first to find out if they fall in this category by checking their registration status online or at their county board of elections, and then, if they have been wrongly purged, to understand how they can cast a provisional ballot to make sure their voting rights aren’t unlawfully denied.
However, because of a separate (misguided) federal appeals court ruling upholding key elements of a flawed 2014 state law on provisional voting, Ohio voters who cast provisional ballots this year must exert extra care in filling out the forms to make sure they print, not write in cursive, and that they enter personal information precisely and legibly, without error, in all required fields.
That’s because even the slightest, unintentional error in filling out identifying information such as birthdate or address, or using what appears to be cursive handwriting, will disqualify a provisional ballot per the patently absurd provisions of Substitute Senate Bill 216 — provisions that a federal court wisely threw out in June after a 12-day trial but that the sharply split federal appellate panel restored last month in a decision the full appeals court has refused to reconsider.