Friday, 09 January 2015 00:00

Fewer provisional ballots cast in 2014

Written by Darrel Rowland | The Columbus Dispatch

More than 15,000 Ohioans tried to cast a ballot but didn’t have their votes counted in the November 2014 general election. And that’s good news, says a report unveiled yesterday by the Ohio secretary of state’s office, because it’s fewer than those who had their ballots thrown out in the previous gubernatorial election four years earlier.

The 2014 total also represents less than 0.5 percent in an election that drew more than 3.1 million voters. The 15,000-plus represents the total of rejected absentee (10,588) and provisional ballots (4,734).

Secretary of State Jon Husted hailed the report because it showed that a smaller portion of voters was forced to cast provisional ballots last year but that a greater percentage of those votes were counted.

Provisional ballots made up 1.6 percent of the total ballots cast in November, a decrease from the previous gubernatorial election in 2010, when 2.7 percent had to vote provisionally. The share of provisional ballots counted increased to 90.4 percent, an increase from 88.8 percent four years earlier.

In simplest terms, provisional ballots are given to voters whose eligibility is in question when they show up at the polls. Voters have seven days after the election to demonstrate to elections officials that they were eligible to cast a ballot.

Many voting-rights advocates decry the use of provisional ballots because a relatively high percentage is not counted.

But the report concluded: “Provisional ballots should be considered second-chance, not second-class ballots as the vast majority of those cast are counted upon verification.”

Of the 9.6 percent that county boards of elections did not count last year, more than 55 were thrown out because the voter was not registered to vote in Ohio. In contrast, only

1.2 percent of absentee votes were disqualified.

“It’s a testament to work we have done to make sure voter rolls are updated and accurate,” said Husted spokesman Matt McClellan. “We’re trying to be proactive and help voters as much as I can.”

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde said while she is happy that fewer Ohioans’ votes were thrown out, 15,000 is still too many.

“It’s critically important that we’re counting as many votes as we can,” the Kent Democrat said. “I believe we will see more provisional voters in presidential election years, when turnout is higher and more people voting who are not regular voters.”

She also credited part of the decrease in rejected provisional ballots to a loosening of state rules that allows votes to be counted even when they’re cast in the wrong precinct, as long as they’re in the correct polling place. Clyde noted that Husted initially oppose that move in court.

Even though Husted mailed absentee ballot applications to most registered voters in Ohio last year, early voting went up by only 1 percent over 2010, when just the largest counties sent out applications. The November 2014 turnout was paltry overall for a general election, blamed mostly on the underwhelming campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald and the lack of a U.S. Senate race or statewide issue.

The reports on provisional and absentee ballots are available at www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/elections/Research/electResultsMain/2014Results.aspx

Link to original article from The Columbus Dispatch

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