A federal district judge on Monday ordered Ohio to count provisional ballots cast at the right location but in the wrong precinct due to poll workers’ errors, a ruling that could prevent thousands of votes from being disqualified in November as they have been in past elections.
U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley, ruling that voters should not be disenfranchised by poll workers’ mistakes, late Monday granted an injunction requiring Ohio to count provisional votes cast in the wrong precinct due to incorrect advice from election officials.
Marbley’s decision, which is expected to be appealed by Ohio’s top elections official, would change the electoral rules established by an earlier Ohio Supreme Court ruling under which most provisional votes cast in the wrong precinct must be disqualified, even in cases of poll worker error.
Such a blanket invalidation, Marbley said in a 58-page opinion, would cause “thousands of lawfully-registered voters (to) be completely deprived of their right to vote” this fall – an “invidious restriction” on individuals’ fundamental rights with the potential to alter even national elections. “Recent experience proves that our elections are decided, all too often, by improbably slim margins,” Marbley wrote, referring to the 2000 Bush-Gore race in Florida, in which a 537-vote difference determined the presidency. “Any potential threat to the franchise, no matter how small, must therefore be treated with the utmost seriousness.”
The lawsuit, filed by the civil rights group Advancement Project, the Service Employees International Union and others, focused on provisional ballots – an issue that The Enquirer has detailed in an occasional series of stories that began last month.