Saturday, October 9, 2004

Election board vote tied on registration residency

Secretary of state to decide issue in Hamilton County

By Cindi Andrews
Enquirer staff writer

The Hamilton County Board of Elections split 2-2 Friday on whether to allow registered voters to vote at any precinct in the county if they've moved but not registered their new address with the board.

Election 2004 page
"The practice has always been ... to make it as convenient as possible for voters, and I think we should continue the practice," said V. Daniel Radford, the Democratic board member who made the motion.

Board of Elections Chairman Tim Burke, the county Democratic Party chairman, joined Radford.

Both Republicans voted against the measure. Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican, will be the tie-breaker.

The issue has come up in Hamilton County and elsewhere across the state because Blackwell recently issued a directive forbidding election officials from accepting provisional ballots voters cast in the wrong precinct on Election Day.

Provisional ballots are used when the voter's name doesn't appear in a given precinct's book of registered voters.

The voter's eligibility is checked and the vote counted after Election Day.

Voters who have moved without notifying the elections board must vote at the polling place that serves their new home, according to Blackwell.

County GOP Chairman Michael Barrett, a member of the election board, said chaos could result if voters are allowed to vote anywhere they want.

"I think we should be encouraging people to vote, Dan, but we should be encouraging people to vote in the right place," Barrett told Radford.

The issue may be settled by a higher authority next week, when a federal judge takes up the Ohio Democratic Party's lawsuit seeking to force Blackwell to loosen the rules on provisional voting.

The Hamilton County Board of Elections dealt with several other issues Friday as an unusually controversial election season enters its final weeks:

• The board told Elections Director John Williams to continue investigating possible voter registration fraud. Nineteen voter registration forms collected by ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) give nonexistent addresses, Williams said.

Officials with ACORN, which represents low-income families, said the man who collected the registrations no longer works there. Dozens more voter registration forms are suspicious, Williams said.

• The board is considering a request by ACORN to accept 526 late voter registration forms. The deadline was Monday, but the group said the registrations were misplaced until Thursday.

Williams said the law doesn't appear to allow late registrations from outside groups.


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