Friday, October 22, 2004

The provisional ballot conflict

Provisional ballots are given to Ohioans who have moved without notifying their boards of elections or say they are registered but do not show up on voter rolls at a polling place.

The votes are placed in envelopes, then counted separately from regular ballots within 10 days of Election Day. If the voter's registration checks out, the vote is counted. If the registration cannot be found, the vote is not counted.

Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell has told county boards to give provisional ballots only to voters who have gone to the correct polling place. Poll workers must direct voters to the correct polling place if they show up at the wrong one.

The Ohio Democratic Party and a coalition of unions and voter rights groups say that directive violates a 2002 federal law that says provisional ballots can be used anywhere.

The federal law requires the states to follow state law. Ohio law requires people to vote at their correct precinct.

Federal Judge James G. Carr of Toledo agreed with the Democrats and ordered Blackwell to direct boards of election to count any ballots cast in the correct county. Blackwell's appeal is pending.

The Associated Press

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