In a sharply worded ruling that placed blame squarely on Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley ordered yesterday that specific provisional ballots cannot be discarded as final tabulation of last week's election returns begins.
In a sharply worded ruling that placed blame squarely on Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley ordered yesterday that specific provisional ballots cannot be discarded as final tabulation of last week’s election returns begins.
Marbley said that Husted broke Ohio law, violated a court consent order and acted in a “ surreptitious manner” in issuing an order the weekend before the Nov. 6 election.
Husted’s action, Marbley said, “casts serious doubt on his protestations of good faith.”
He ordered Husted to come up with a new order by Friday concerning the disposition of the provisional ballots in question.
Husted spokesman Matt McClellan said late last night that Husted “will appeal today’s ruling because it allows potentially fraudulent votes to be counted. By eliminating the ID requirement on provisional ballots, the ruling is contrary to Ohio law and undermines the integrity of the election.”
The dispute concerns provisional ballots that voters were required to cast if they didn’t have proper identification; had moved without changing their address; or were voting in the wrong precinct. Husted’s order required voters, not poll workers, to write identifying information on the provisional ballot envelope.
There are 204,927 provisional ballots remaining to be counted beginning Saturday, but only a small fraction of those are expected to fall into the category that the lawsuit addresses.
The opponents in the case, a coalition representing the homeless in northeastern Ohio, argued that Husted’s ruling unfairly shifted the burden to the voter for something the poll worker should do. The coalition said that increases the chance for mistakes and thus invalidation of otherwise legitimate ballots.
Marbley repeatedly criticized Husted in the ruling, saying he violated state law and “cannot benefit from his illegal act.” Further, he said Husted’s order “illegally shifts the burdens of recording identification information from election officials to voters and does not allow election workers to distinguish poll-worker error from voter failure to provide identification. … There were myriad options available to the Secretary to create a form which would have made such distinctions clear, but he chose not to pursue those options.”