Barry M. Horstman reports:
A federal judge has sharply criticized Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s last-minute change of ballot rules before this month’s election, saying Husted acted in a “fundamentally unfair and constitutionally impermissible” manner.
U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley also ordered Ohio to count any provisional ballots jeopardized by a directive Husted issued the Friday night before Election Day that shifted a key responsibility from poll workers to voters.
“The surreptitious manner in which the secretary went about implementing this last-minute change to the election rules casts serious doubts on his protestations of good faith,” Marbley wrote in his 17-page ruling.
Calling Husted’s action “a rare but serious” violation of state law, Marbley said Husted’s Nov. 2 directive “disenfranchises an unknown but potentially large number of Ohio voters.”
To remedy the situation, Marbley ordered Husted to issue a new directive no later than Friday – the day before counties may begin counting provisional votes as part of their official canvass of the Nov. 6 election.
Statewide, nearly 206,000 provisional votes cast last week remain to be counted.
Husted has appealed Marbley’s ruling, which he argues “is contrary to Ohio law and undermines the integrity of the election,” Husted spokesman Matt McClellan said.
If Marbley’s decision stands, Husted fears it could “allow potentially fraudulent votes to be counted,” McClellan added.
The latest in the series of legal disputes seen before and after Election 2012 in Ohio stems from how voters’ identification is noted on envelopes containing provisional ballots.