Contacts: Barbara Chisholm, Danielle Leonard, Altshuler Berzon LLP: (415) 421-7151
Wayne Ranick (412) 562-2444, firstname.lastname@example.org
(COLUMBUS) -- A coalition of labor organizations, on behalf of the tens of thousands of Ohio voters they represent, today asked a federal court in Columbus, Ohio, to issue an injunction holding that the Ohio law that requires the rejection of thousands of provisional ballots every election for reasons attributable to poll worker error unconstitutionally denies Ohio voters their fundamental right to have their votes counted.
The lawsuit, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local One et. al v. Husted, contends that Ohio’s provisional ballot law violates the Equal Protection and Substantive Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and asks the court to require the State of Ohio and the 88 County Boards of Elections to count rather than reject provisional ballots cast by lawfully registered voters in the upcoming November 2012 general election.
Plaintiffs contend that the United States Constitution protects the fundamental right to vote from being denied by poll worker error. There is no legitimate reason that Ohio should be permitted to reject ballots cast by lawful voters for technicalities and because of poll worker mistakes.
“The Ohio system is fundamentally unfair to both hardworking poll workers – who are only trying to help people vote – and to the voters whose entire ballots are disqualified without notice after the election,” said United Steelworkers (USW) District 1 Director David McCall. “There is absolutely no valid reason an Ohio voter should be denied the right to vote for President of the United States simply because he or she was given the wrong precinct ballot. Ohio needs to fix this unfair system before the November election.”
Ohio has one of the most complicated provisional ballot laws in the entire country. Many states have two or three circumstances that will trigger a requirement to vote provisionally rather than with a regular ballot on Election Day. Ohio has created thirteen. As a result, in 2008, more than 200,000 voters were required to cast provisional ballots in Ohio, which is second in number only to provisional ballots cast in California, which has a much larger voting population. (Source: U.S. Election Assistance Commission data).
Because of its strict ballot-counting laws, Ohio also rejects very high numbers of provisional ballots cast by lawfully registered voters: 14,000 in 2008 alone for being cast in the wrong precinct (Source: Ohio Secretary of State election results data). Ohio has further complicated matters by consolidating voting precincts into multi-precinct polling locations – so that voters can vote in the right building, but still later have their entire ballot rejected as being cast in the wrong precinct.
In the papers submitted to the federal court, the organizations provide extensive statewide evidence demonstrating that the complicated Ohio provisional ballot system results in widespread poll worker error. Poll workers unintentionally give voters the wrong provisional ballots or fail to provide instructions on how and where to cast such a ballot. But currently Ohio law prohibits county boards of election from considering this poll worker error. Minutes from county board meetings across the State of Ohio reflect the boards’ frustration that Ohio law forbids them from counting ballots that were cast incorrectly through no fault of the voters.
The collation involved in this actions includes the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1; United Steelworkers (USW) International Union; United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) Locals 1005 and 863; and the Ohio Organizing Collaborative.
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