A federal judge Tuesday ordered Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to make corrections to last-minute directive he issued a few days before the Nov. 6 election on counting provisional ballots, calling it a ‘flagrant violation of a state elections law” that could disenfranchise voters.
U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley said the Republican election chief’s “surreptitious” new rules on rejecting provisional ballots were set at 7 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer
In response Husted said he plans to appeal the ruling, saying the judge’s decision would allow fraudulent votes to be counted.
Husted’s directive requires election officials to reject provisional ballots if voters did not fill out the part of the ballot application asking for some form of identification.
Judge Marbley said the directive violates a state law that makes poll workers, not voters, responsible for filling out the ballot application. He said it also violates a consent decree protecting provisional ballots that have mistakes because of poll worker error.
"Ohio voters reasonably expect that the secretary of Ohio will abide by the General Assembly’s laws in administering a federal election," Marbley wrote in his decision. "For an executive of the state to (flout) state law in arbitrarily reassigning a poll worker’s statutory duty to a voter, with the result being disenfranchisement of the voter, is ‘fundamentally unfair and constitutionally impermissible.’"
Ohio Elections officials will start counting provisional ballots from the Nov. 6 election on Saturday. Marbley’s ruling narrows the guidelines for rejecting ballots, and it orders Husted to craft an acceptable alternative directive by noon Friday.
Marbley, who was appointed by former President bill Clinton, also criticized the design of the provisional ballot application, which he said makes it difficult for elections officials to even determine if errors are the fault of the poll worker or voter. He questioned whether the poor drafting was "by design or accident."
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