Returning Sanity to Ohio Election Law

By Tim Rudd
Clermont Republican Party Chairperson

Some sanity used to prevail regarding eligibility to vote on Election Day. Prior Ohio law stated that a person had to correct any changes, deficiencies, or discrepancies in his voter registration thirty days before an election to be eligible to vote, a clear hard fast easy to enforce rule to which we should return.

Motor Voter and HAVA instituted some laudable but shortsighted, with unforeseen consequences, changes to increase “voter participation” on Election Day. A person who is currently registered in Ohio but has moved is allowed to vote at their new poll without having to change their address prior to the election. Hence was born the “provisional ballot” to allow a registered Ohio voter to vote in their “new” precinct.

  • Ohio law is also clear that a citizen must vote in their precinct, where they currently reside, in order for their vote to count.
  • Numerous directives have flowed from the last two Secretaries of State to reinforce that code to local board of elections. (Prior to the provisional, there was a challenged ballot where if a citizen’s registration was successfully challenged at the poll then they would have to vote a ballot treated like the modern provisional to later be determined as to its eligibility by the local board of elections).
  • Some election outcomes have been solely decided on the count of provisional ballots during the final canvas conducted by a board of elections. These aren’t necessarily elections where a handful of votes determined the outcome as provisionals can number in the thousands.
  • Federal courts have also ruled that boards of elections are to ignore the legal requirement that someone must vote in their own precinct if someone can claim but not necessarily prove “poll worker error.”

It seems almost incredible to me that thousands of voters within a county – let alone one polling place – can be “directed” to a wrong precinct, be told that their vote will not count if they vote in the wrong precinct, vote and then expect their vote to count.

What happens when a truly local issue is caught in the middle of a provisional vote fight? For example, imagine a local school levy fails by four votes where we have a polling place with four precincts, two of which are in the school district. Ten provisional votes are cast at the polling place. The local board determines that half of the provisionals should have had the chance to vote on the school issue but didn’t because they voted in the wrong precinct. Would a court then step in and order a local board to allow these voters a second chance after the outcome has been announced?

The lesson once again is that a government should not try to be a super nanny but let some responsibility reside with an informed citizenry. We need to return to a hard fast easy to enforce court proof rule that places some of the burden and responsibility where it should rest – the voter.