COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Changes to how the March 17 Presidential Primary Election in Ohio was run will cause some provisional ballots to go uncounted.
Unlike regular ballots and absentee ballots, provisional ballots are not automatically counted.
This is the case in every election. Voting a provisional ballot means your eligibility to vote in the election is in question.
Under normal circumstances, voters may have to vote a provisional ballot because their name isn’t found on the precinct’s voter log, or their home address doesn’t match the address attached to the voter registration.
These are common issues that pop up from time to time because people get married, change their name and move, but don’t get around to updating their voter registration.
Sometimes, a person is not actually registered to vote in Ohio and think they are. This can happen when someone moves to the state, and is simply mistaken about their registration.
Whatever the case may be, Election Day is not the day to sort out the mess, so both federal and state laws establish that if a voter shows up to the polls and wants to cast a ballot, but eligibility cannot be confirmed, they must be given a provisional ballot, and the board of elections will figure out if that person is allowed to vote in the following days when there is more time to get to the bottom of the issue.
Just over a week ago, days before the final day of Ohio’s extended primary election, it became clear that not everyone who requested an absentee ballot was going to receive it in time due to delays with the U.S. Postal Service and the worldwide pandemic currently underway.
So the Ohio Secretary of State allowed those who had requested an absentee ballot who did not receive one to vote in person on April 28, when two groups singled out to be able to vote in person for this election were also going to be casting their ballots.
The two groups were people with disabilities and people who could not receive mail at their home, a catch-all phrase mostly referring to the homeless. Due to the difficulties these two groups would have requesting absentee ballots ahead of time, a day was set aside for them to be able to participate.
That was done by the Ohio legislature. After polling locations were shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19 the day before in-person voting was to commence, lawmakers had to figure out how to resolve the election.
They decided to extend the election through April 28 and everyone, except those two groups, had to vote by mail.
Because of the way the bill was written, they created a new eligibility test that must be passed for voters to overcome in order to have their voice heard in the election.
There are now two sets of eligibility, pre-postponement and post-postponement.
Because the rules were changed in the middle of the election, there could be people who showed up to early vote in the 28-day window prior to Election Day that had a potential eligibility issue like a new address that hadn’t been updated on their registration yet, who will have a different standard for eligibility than a voter casting a provisional ballot April 28.
Voters who had to cast a provisional ballot because of a question over their eligibility during early voting only have to meet eligibility requirements as they would in a normal election. But the person voting on a provisional ballot after March 17, would, in addition to the normal eligibility requirements, also have had to request an absentee ballot.
Different criteria for different voters, tends to make some people’s teeth grind.
Some voter rights advocates are not happy about the situation and don’t think the courts will ultimately take the side of voters after seeing rulings over what happened in Wisconsin and other states.
They are turning their attention to November and say a plan has to be in place well before the election so all voters have a chance to have their voice be heard.
“Changing the rules at the last moment for the November election could really be catastrophic. We’re talking about presidential elections, we’re talking about the Congress, we’re talking about Senate,” said Catherine Turcer of Common Cause Ohio. “If you think about the importance of the November election, we need to make sure that we do everything we can so that voters are able to cast their ballots and know that they’ll be properly counted.”
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