How Republicans Are Trying to Steal the Election
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Ohio: Long Weekend Lines But Other Issues Loom
There were huge early voting turnouts in Cleveland and in cities across the state, many news outlets reported, underscoring a recent federal court ruling that rebuked Ohio’s GOP Secretary of State John Husted, who tried to cancel voting on the final weekend before Election Day. But that hasn’t stopped Husted from doing other things that could thwart all Ohioans’ votes from being counted.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that lines in the Cuyahoga County were long but moved steadily. There are numerous pictures of voters waiting in line, but the reports suggest that everyone who showed up was eventually accommodated.
The issues that are looming concern the vote-counting process. The first concerns Ohio’s provisional ballots, of which 200,000 were cast in 2008 and of that group approximately 40,000 were not counted. The problem with provisional ballots is both technical and political, according to a Monday briefing by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School.
Earlier this fall, Husted sent out absentee ballot applications to every registered voter, but apparently 130,000 people wanting to vote by mail did not receive a ballot, the Brennan Center said. So if they appear at polling places, many will be given a provisional ballot. One reason they may not have received an absentee ballot is because of the state’s voter registration database, said the Center’s Wendy Weiser. Apparently, Ohio’s system has limited voter identification options for election officials to match names—not being flexible for typos or street address abbreviations, for example—that result in registered voters being listed as ineligible voters. “It’s the problem of faulty [voter name] search mechanisms,” she said, ading that this problem affects all Ohio counties except where Cleveland is located. That could be a big problem when it comes to counting provisional and mail-in ballots.
There also is a political dimension to Ohio’s 2012 provisional ballots. On Friday, Husted issued a directive changing the fine print on how identifying information is to be filled out on the envelopes for these ballots. He shifted the burden from poll officials to voters. That means if a voter makes a mistake—by not copying the correct ID number—their provisional ballot can be rejected. Litigation over that issue is ongoing as of Monday.
The other issue that has raised eyebrows concerns how Husted’s office apparently installed an unauthorized software patch on voting machines in 39 counties. It’s an open question whether this installation will affect the electronic vote count.
Who’s Watching The Polls?
The biggest question is will the GOP voter vigilante group TrueTheVote, which is made up of local Tea Party chapters, disrupt polling place voting in key states? Already, the group has been training its volunteers based on misinformation. In Wisconsin, where some rightwing poll watchers disrupted voting during the gubernatorial recall in June, prompting the state’s top election officials to issue stern warnings, the Romney campaign has incorrectly been telling its polling place observers that former felons cannot vote.
In North Carolina, the Associated Press reports that the state Board of Elections has received complaints about party activists harassing people beyond legal buffer zones at polling place entrances, including telling people they cannot vote if they have traffic tickets. “I’ve heard more complaints, more misinformation and more what I call intimidation or suppression than any time during my tenure,” said North Carolina Board of Elections Executive Director Gary Bartlett, who has served for 20 years.
In Ohio, the fear is that TrueTheVote will be importing out-of-state activists who will be disrupting the process for things that they think look suspicious—more racial profiling—instead of following Ohio law. Of course, election protection groups with civil rights lawyers that can be reached by phone, say they’re prepared to forcefully respond.