Sunday, October 24, 2004

Provisional Ballots

In comments someone brought up the Enquirer's editoral on the "provisional ballot mess." The ruling of a Federal Court has been overturned by 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The relevant text of the Help America Vote Act is Title III Section 302(a) as follows:
(a) Provisional Voting Requirements.--If an individual declares that such individual is a registered voter in the jurisdiction in which the individual desires to vote and that the individual is eligible to vote in an election for Federal office, but the name of the individual does not appear on the official list of eligible voters for the polling place or an election official asserts that the individual is not eligible to vote, such individual shall be permitted to cast a provisional ballot as follows:
(1) An election official at the polling place shall notify the individual that the individual may cast a provisional ballot in that election.
(2) The individual shall be permitted to cast a provisional ballot at that polling place upon the execution of a written affirmation by the individual before an election official at the polling place stating that the individual is
(A) a registered voter in the jurisdiction in which the individual desires to vote; and
(B) eligible to vote in that election.
(3) An election official at the polling place shall transmit the ballot cast by the individual or the voter information contained in the written affirmation executed by the individual under paragraph (2) to an appropriate State or local election official for prompt verification under paragraph (4).
(4) If the appropriate State or local election official to whom the ballot or voter information is transmitted under paragraph(3) determines that the individual is eligible under State law to vote, the individual's provisional ballot shall be counted as a vote in that election in accordance with State law.
(5)(A) At the time that an individual casts a provisional ballot, the appropriate State or local election official shall give the individual written information that states that any individual who casts a provisional ballot will be able to ascertain under the system established under subparagraph (B)whether the vote was counted, and, if the vote was not counted, the reason that the vote was not counted.
(B) The appropriate State or local election official shall establish a free access system (such as a toll-free telephone number or an Internet website) that any individual who casts a provisional ballot may access to discover whether the vote of
that individual was counted, and, if the vote was not counted, the reason that the vote was not counted.
The crux of the issue with the law depends on how you define Jurisdiction. From my viewpoint I see the county as the definition of Jurisdiction for the State of Ohio. The county is where voter registration is controlled. It can't be voting precinct, which I don't think can quality as any type of jurisdiction. There is no foundation to claim any control or jurisdiction over a precinct, other than by the county. It could be the local jurisdiction (city, village, township), but that would actually be much more complicated than county. I could live in the city of Cincinnati, but fall among multiple state office boundaries. I would still have to have some variable type of ballot including all offices and issues for everyone in the city. The county would then have to have provisional ballots for precincts with the same races and issues.

The remedy is rather simple. All you need, which is what I think the Judge advised, is that each county create a standard county wide ballot. It would include all offices and issues, which are listed in every precinct in the county. That becomes the provisional ballot used for the person who thinks they should be registered in the county. As long as they are registered in the county, that ballot then counts. They do miss out on voting for many local races and issues, but they still can vote.

An additional solution that should happen before provisional ballots are brought up would a system (which partially exists, but needs to be improved) to help people find and then get to the correct precinct. We have a system now to help people fine the right voting location, but no way to get them there if they can't get there on their own. If they can't make it to the other location they will just not vote, making the provisional ballot a good second choice for that person, allowing their vote to count at least on some level. This is not rocket science. This would not cause confusion. This would not increase fraud. A person could commit as much fraud with Blackwell's restrictive provisional ballot as with this fair version. So claims of such are false and just cover for the real desire, suppressing the vote of poor and minority voters.

As of this morning I can't find a copy of the 6th circuit ruling online, I would guess it might hit tomorrow. I do not know their rationale for reversing the ruling. At this late date we are facing a mess because we have people following different guidelines and Blackwell lost his credibility and thus any real authority by his push to suppress the vote. We will have a mess.

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