November 4th, 2008
07:23 PM ET
14 years ago

Provisional ballots piling up in Ohio

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(CNN) - With voters turning out in record numbers, voting rights advocates in Ohio say they have received thousands of reports of problems with provisional ballots across the state Tuesday. Voters in Columbus and Cleveland registered the most complaints. Pam Wilmot from Common Cause said provisional ballots could "play a significant role in the outcome of today's election."

Ohio relies heavily on provisional ballots which are issued to a voter for a myriad of reasons but the top three are the voter's name not appearing on the registration rolls, a voter showing up in the wrong precinct, or problems with the voter's form of identification.

Patrick Galloway, spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of State says his office has gotten complaints about the number of provisional ballots being issued. He says the Secretary of State's office has "provided direction to the (state's county election) boards to get the word to their provisional judges at polling locations on how to make sure votes are accurately cast."

Steve Hartsman, director of the Montgomery County Ohio Board of Elections which includes Dayton estimates that by time polls close, voters will have cast 12,000-18,000 provisional ballots in his county Tuesday. Hartsman says Montgomery county typically sees 10,000 provisional ballots cast, but he points to record high numbers of voters. Hartsman says more than 300,000 votes will be cast in Montgomery county. In 2004, 279,000 votes were cast.

Voter turnout is high in Cleveland as well. Kim Bartlett of the Cuyahoga Board of Elections says as of 6pm a random sampling of 44 precincts in her county shows that voter turnout is at 56.07%, which she characterizes as high.

Ohio is second only to California in the use of provisional ballots according to Donita Judge, from the Advancement Project, a voter protection organziation. A report issued by the Advancement Project this year shows that in the 2006 general election, more than 120,000 ballots cast in Ohio were provisional ballots. Of those, 18% were rejected and eventually not counted. The ballots were mandated by Congress to ensure that no voter would be turned away from a polling place due to lack of identification. However, provisional ballots are not counted until 10 days after the election, after all official ballots are recorded, and are contestable. Experts say they could be decisive in a close race.

Some judges at polling precincts in Ohio were issuing provisional ballots in error because they were confused about whether state drivers' licenses with outdated addresses could be used as proof of identification, Hamilton County Board of Elections Director Sally Krisel confirmed Tuesday.

"They are nervous, so they have them vote by provisional ballot," Krisel said of the judges who were not aware of an Ohio law that mandates that drivers' licenses can be used as proof of identification and address, even if the address does not match the voter's current address.

Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Community Outreach coordinator Kim Bartlett says the same thing is occurring in her county.

"If I move, I'm not required to get a new drivers license with a new address, she explained Tuesday. "Licenses are good for four years, even if they don't have a valid address, its still considered valid proof of ID."

Both the Hamilton County and Cuyahoga County Board of Elections say they were engaged in outreach efforts throughout election day to explain the rules on provisional ballots to confused poll workers.

Ohio State University law professor Edward Foley said he had also heard some complaints about voters being forced to use the provisional ballot but it was too early to tell if this was a systematic, statewide problem.

"Ohio's provisional voting laws are unbelievably complicated, he added. "There are 14 separate reasons why a voter should vote on a provisional ballot. I'm a law professor and I can't keep them in my head. We can't expect poll workers to implement these rules flawlessly."

Krisel assured Ohio voters Tuesday that "all ballots will be counted" even if they were provisional.

But Democratic watchdog group, the Advancement Project, remained concerned.

"We are observing an excessive use of provisional ballots, and are wondering why," said lawyer Sheila Thomas on Tuesday. Candice Hoke of Cleveland State University's Center for Election Integrity said the reason could lie in problems with the voter databases themselves.

"Problems with voter registration records in database are leading to higher rates of provisional ballots than should be occurring."

Her monitors had received complaints that some voters had found themselves dropped from voter rolls due to hiccups with the voter registration databases that are not subject to federal certification systems for accuracy or security. They were therefore forced to vote by provisional ballot as well.

–CNN's Beth Elliott contributed to this report

Updated: 7:23 p.m.

Filed under: Ohio • Voter Problems
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Barbara in NC

    Be sure they all get counted. No more 2000, No more 2004.


    Obama/Biden '08

    November 4, 2008 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  2. Barbara in NC

    Love the Jessica Hologram. Beam me up Scotty – HA

    November 4, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  3. Anonymous


    November 4, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  4. beth

    I have a bad feeling that another election will be stolen. McCain's up 53 to 46% in VA ....only 2% is counted, but I think things are going all wrong. No wonder McCain has been so sure of winning. I'm going to go cry now.

    November 4, 2008 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  5. Del

    1. Be sure to register in time.
    2. Obtain your voter registration card.
    3. If you are not on the list on polling day, provide your voter registration card and valid state ID.
    4. Go to the correct polling place – if you go to the wrong one, the polling place should require you to go to the correct one.

    If you arrive without your voter registration card and/or valid state ID, or you go to the wrong polling place and refuse to go to the correct one – TOO F'ING BAD! Learn your lesson and follow instructions the next election!

    This crap in Ohio is ridiculous! Follow the law or lose your vote!

    November 4, 2008 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  6. steve

    The 'hologram' thing is an annoying joke.
    what happened to the deep voice James Earl Jones CNN I'm used to?

    I think McCain will pull this one out 🙁

    November 4, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  7. Amanda

    For sure. No more stolen elections. Not sure whats going on with the registration. I know my dad was unable to vote because he was not on the list. Not his fault...doesn't make him clueless...but someone must be!!

    McCain/Palin 08

    November 4, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  8. MJ in Cape Coral

    This race will not be called tonight.... to many stupid people who don't know how to tear off ballots or run machines properly. It will NOT be Florida's fault but they sure will blame Florida somehow. God Bless America cause we sure are going to need it no matter who wins. I have no faith in either of them fixing our problems. Only God can help us now.

    November 4, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  9. Daniel

    There's an interesting video on about this, too. Cleveland's still a political battleground, sounds like...

    November 4, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  10. david

    I was told I had to go home and get a utility bill or cast a provisional ballot because my license address didn't match my registered address. Luckily, I have a car and I didn't have to go to work today, but many voters aren't so fortunate.

    Ohio voter

    November 4, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  11. john

    Come jan20th there will be a lot of illegal drugs flowing at the whitehouse,prostitution,homosexuality,voodoo'satanic worship,hugo chavez,putin,castro,muammar kadaffi,muslim terrorists wilp br welcome too

    November 4, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  12. chris

    I think it's past time that election observers are what's needed in the US, I'ts unbelievable, they can find money for fighting wars all over the world yet they are not capable of running fair and democratic elections, you are the laughing stock of most third world counties.

    November 4, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  13. Kay

    Voting is just not that difficult. I am disabled and I managed it. I went online looked up all the information– made myself a wee "cheatsheet" so I would remember the proper names and went to my polling place. I didn't need my ID or my voter registration card becausse quite frankly I always vote and my name was found quickly.
    I voted- and I left. No problems.
    I hope everyone is able to vote and we don't have to wait days or weeks to get our answer.

    OBAMA/Biden - WAY TO GO!!!

    November 4, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  14. CW

    Daniel Ortega was one of Obama's early supporters. Funny, I did not see that mentioned in the NYT???

    November 4, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  15. Capital Peach

    Provisional ballots? Why did I know they would try this?....

    November 4, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  16. john

    The muslims,socialists,communists,terrorists ,homosexuals,those who practice voodoo and worship satan cant wait for mr barack hussein to get elected and then rejoice god help?us all

    November 4, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  17. Learn your facts

    Ohio does not use Voter Registration Cards.

    November 4, 2008 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  18. C. Eagle

    I went to vote this morning. The sun is a wonderful thing. I wanted to put some Nike's on but I just had to put flip-flops. It was so warm. I'm in the mood for an Egg McMuffin. No, scratch that, an Egg Mcmuffin with chili. Today is Tuesday and I read the paper this morning. Maybe I will go to Church tomorrow. Now that I think about it, I have to burn some CD's for my firend, Julio. Is tomorrow really November 5th? Time sure does fly. Except when I had that staph infection. OUCH!!!

    November 4, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  19. mary

    i have to agree w/ del voting is a priveledge....permission granted to show up prepared ....we've only known about the election for the past 4 years....

    November 4, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  20. lee75

    It looks like the Republicans are stealing this election. NO WONDER MCSAME HAS BEEN SO CONFIDENT. I am going to bed now and cry. Good night.

    November 4, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  21. Clark

    Just something a little funny. . .

    A friend and I voted about half and hour apart, the first name on her ballot was Obama, my first on the ballot was McCain . . .

    Why . . . ?

    November 4, 2008 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    I have moused over various states that have been called by CNN for Obama. But the the data CNN is reporting lists both candidates as having 0% of the vote. For Example, DC, DE and MD, just to name a few all list both candidates as having 0% of the vote, but all were colored Blue for Obama. How can this be? Can someone please explain this?

    November 4, 2008 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  23. john

    why is it that my commwnts are awaiting moderation,is this the liberal media backing barac husaeiin ?i wonder

    November 4, 2008 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  24. Bill

    john – this board has a moderator. ALL comments initially wait moderation. Oh, wait. I guess that's a "liberal media" conspiracy, huh!? Never mind the factual reality, let's just cry conspiracy. I wonder.

    November 4, 2008 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |