A U.S. District Court judge plans to decide by early August on whether a consent decree requiring provisional ballots be counted regardless of poll worker errors should be invalidated or kept in place. “There is nothing more important than the franchise – the right to vote,” U.S. District Court Judge Algenon L. Marbley told the attorneys on Wednesday. “This court is going to protect the franchise.” Two years ago, Marbley issued a consent decree that followed an agreement struck by the parties in the case Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless versus Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, over provisional ballots. The deal requires that provisional ballots be counted even if they were cast in the wrong precinct or the ballot envelope wasn’t properly filled out due to poll worker error. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted is arguing that the consent decree conflicts with Ohio law governing provisional ballots and with a more recent ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court.
Last year 1,554 ballots cast statewide would not have been counted had the consent decree not been in place, said attorney Danielle Leonard, who represents SEIU Local 1199 in the case. A 2006 state law describes when provisional ballots are counted. These ballots are usually cast when a voter is in the wrong precinct or does not have proper identification. The consent decree is more lenient than state law when it comes to provisional ballots. Rules on which ballots are counted and which are tossed out could have an impact in close elections and all eyes are on Ohio again this year because of the presidential election.
Full Article: Ruling on provisional ballots issue expected by August.