By Maggie Thurber | Special to Ohio Watchdog
Four labor unions and the Ohio Organizing Collaborative are seeking an injunction in federal court to prevent provisional ballots in the November election from being rejected due to poll worker error.
The Service Employees International Union Local 1; United Steelworkers International Union; United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America Locals 1005 and 863 filed the lawsuit against Secretary of State Jon Husted and the Boards of Elections in Hamilton, Cuyahoga and Franklin counties.
The plaintiffs contend Ohio’s provisional ballot law violates the Seventh and 14th Amendment, and ask the court to require the counting, rather than the rejection, of provisional ballots cast by lawfully registered voters in the general election. They said that the United States Constitution protects the fundamental right to vote from being denied by poll worker error and that there is no legitimate reason that Ohio should be permitted to reject ballots cast by lawful voters for technicalities and because of poll worker mistakes.
“The Ohio system is fundamentally unfair to both hardworking poll workers – who are only trying to help people vote – and to the voters whose entire ballots are disqualified without notice after the election,” said United Steelworkers District 1 Director David McCall. “There is absolutely no valid reason an Ohio voter should be denied the right to vote for President of the United States simply because he or she was given the wrong precinct ballot. Ohio needs to fix this unfair system before the November election.”
Their lawsuit claims that Ohio throws out more legally cast provisional ballots than any other state and that “hundreds of thousands” of provisional ballots are tossed “for reasons directly attributable to poll worker error.”
“In 2006, Ohio enacted one of the nation’s most complicated provisional ballot laws,” the complaint states. “Ohio requires at least (13) categories of voters to cast provisional, rather than regular ballots. As a result, Ohio voters have cast hundreds of thousands more provisional ballots than voters in states with comparable voting populations. In 2008 alone, Ohio voters cast more than 200,000 provisional ballots out of 5.7 million votes.”
The lawsuit also claims that Ohio law requires county boards of election to reject provisional ballots even when the board knows the poll worker error is what led to the voter getting the wrong ballot.