Democrats Sue Over Ballot Access - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Democrats Sue Over Ballot Access

COLUMBUS, OH -- The Ohio Democratic Party sued Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell on Monday to allow voters to be able to cast ballots, even at the wrong polling place, as long as they are in the county where they are registered. Blackwell, a Republican, sent county boards of elections a directive on Sept. 16 ordering them to deny provisional ballots to voters who show up at the wrong polling place. Instead, poll workers must call the board and find out the correct polling place and send the voter there.

Provisional ballots are provided to registered voters who have moved but have not updated their registration with the boards. They are set aside and inspected by Democratic and Republican board employees to ensure they are valid. Democratic leaders said at a news conference that the Help America Vote Act, which Congress passed in 2002, allows voters to cast provisional ballots at any polling place in their home county.

Democrats said that would affect their candidates more than it would Republican candidates. Poor people who tend to vote for Democrats move more often than people who vote for Republicans, said Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy, a Democrat seeking re-election, and Democratic Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman. "I am appalled that 36 days before the election, a move is made to suppress the votes of Ohioans," Coleman said. Kilroy added: "The secretary of state should not be sowing seeds of confusion."

The lawsuit was filed against Blackwell in federal court in Toledo. It asks U.S. District Judge James Carr to prevent Blackwell's directive from taking effect before the Nov. 2 election. Blackwell will fight the lawsuit, spokesman Carlo LoParo said. HAVA cedes the rules governing provisional voting to each state and Ohio law requires voters to cast ballots at the correct polling place, he said.

"Ohio has had provisional balloting for over a decade and it has served voters well," LoParo said. "Ohio law specifically states that a voter must cast a ballot at the correct precinct or at the county board of elections or a place designated by the board of elections."

A bipartisan committee of lawmakers, elections officials, academic experts and community groups in 2003 studied Ohio law to make sure it was in line with HAVA, LoParo said. "The committee concluded that provisional ballot requirements were in compliance," LoParo said.

Posted 10:40 pm Monday, September 27th


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