A federal judge extended a 2010 court decree that governs Ohio’s provisional ballots and voter identification requirements, which voter advocates say has kept elections from becoming the “Wild West.” The agreement ensures that election officials count votes cast provisionally when voters use the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley today. He extended the order until the end of 2016, after the next presidential election in the battleground state. Marbley said that without the decree, “there is nothing to prevent boards of election from returning to those haphazard and, in some cases, illegal practices, which previously resulted in the invalidation of validly cast ballots from registered voters.”
The case stems from a 2006 state law that specified when provisional ballots could be counted toward vote totals. Under the law, a person who provided the last four digits of his or her Social Security number could vote provisionally. Advocates for homeless voters challenged the law in a federal complaint that year. And in 2010, then-Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, the state’s top elections official, entered into the consent decree.
The decree included more options for provisional ballots and voter ID. For example, it incorporated a directive from Brunner that allows letters from public universities to serve as government documents for voting purposes. In addition, it defined “current” as a document issued within a year immediately preceding the date of the election in which a person seeks to vote.
The decree was set to expire June 30, but it was temporary extended while the court weighed arguments.
Voter advocates wanted the decree extended indefinitely or at least until 2021. Marbley said the law didn’t support an indefinite extension.