Ohio races undecided, Absentee and provisional ballots create nightmare, To count or not to count that is the question, Military votes counted?
“Late last night Congressman West maintained a district wide lead of nearly 2000 votes until the St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections “recounted” thousands of early ballots. Following that “recount” Congressman West trailed by 2,400 votes. In addition, there were numerous other disturbing irregularities reported at polls across St. Lucie County including the doors to polling places being locked when the polls closed in direct violation of Florida law, thereby preventing the public from witnessing the procedures used to tabulate results. The St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections office clearly ignored proper rules and procedures, and the scene at the Supervisor’s office last night could only be described as complete chaos. Given the hostility and demonstrated incompetence of the St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections, we believe it is critical that a full hand recount of the ballots take place in St. Lucie County. We will continue to fight to ensure every vote is counted properly and fairly, and accordingly we will pursue all legal means necessary.”…Allen West campaign
“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”…George Orwell, “1984″
“It’s not who votes that counts, it’s who counts the votes”…Joseph Stalin
Ballots are still being counted across the country. Fraud and poor procedures have occurred in Florida and elsewhere. Does anyone have a warm and fuzzy feeling about the elections? I do not.
Massive numbers of mail in or absentee ballots have been or could have been sent. As of Monday, November 19, 2012, over 1.5 million ballots in California had not been processed. 580,071 mail in, 923,768 provisional and 56,293 other.
Due to a court ruling delay, Ohio just began counting provisional ballots, apparently a large number of ballots created by the confusion of mailing so many absentee ballots.
From the Royalton Post November 20, 2012.
“Ohio House District 7 race awaiting provisional ballots count”
“As famed New York Yankee Yogi Berra once said, “It’ ain’t over until it’s over.” And the Ohio House District 7 race between Mike Dovilla (R-Berea) and Matt Patten (D-Strongsville) is far from over.
The Nov. 6 election results had Dovilla winning the election with 50.3 percent (27,091 votes) to Patten’s 49.7 percent (26,786 votes), a difference of only 305 votes.
There are 1,930 provisional ballots to be counted, however. The breakdown of these as yet to be counted votes looks like this: Berea – 356; North Royalton – 488; Olmsted Falls – 146; Olmsted Township – 242 and Strongsville – 698.
Provisional ballots were to have begun to be counted on Nov. 16 or 10 days after Election Day. Final results were to have been released on Nov. 27 at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections certification meeting.
The Board of Elections, as of this writing, was still in the process of determining which provisional ballots are valid.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted issued a directive to local election officials on Nov. 2 that gave them new instructions to reject certain provisional ballots from voters who did not properly fill out the portion of the ballot application that asks for a form of identification.
U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley issued a scathing 17-page ruling stating the directive issued on Nov. 2 was “a flagrant violation of a state elections law” that could disenfranchise voters.
Provisional ballots are given to voters whose eligibility is in question at the polls. Voters have up to 10 days after the election to prove their eligibility in order to ensure that their vote is counted.
Throughout his ruling, Marbley criticized the provisional ballot application Husted designed for the presidential election. Marbley questioned whether the poor drafting was “by design or accident.”
Marbley said the form illegally shifted the responsibility for recording identification information on the provisional ballot application from the poll worker to the voter. He also said the form makes it difficult for election officials to determine if erroneous applications are the fault of the poll worker or the voter.
Husted spokesman Matt McClellan said the Secretary of State would appeal the ruling “because it allows potentially fraudulent votes to be counted. By eliminating the ID requirement on provisional ballots, the ruling is contrary to Ohio law and undermines the integrity of the election.”
Pending any further legal actions, the Board of Elections was to meet on Nov. 20 (past The Post Newspapers deadline) to determine the validity and invalidity of all provisional ballots and review any provisional ballots recommended by the Board of Elections staff for review.
Following the Nov. 20 meeting Board meeting, all provisional voter envelopes were to be opened and the ballots reviewed to ensure the voter cast a ballot in the correct precinct.
In addition to the provisional ballots, there are 175 vote by mail ballots in District 7 that have not been counted. This takes the total of uncounted ballots over to the 2,105 mark when added to the provisionals.
During the 10 days following Election Day, the Board of Elections could receive vote by mail ballots that could be accepted and counted if the return envelopes were postmarked by Nov. 5.
“You would need about 58 percent of everything remaining to flip this in the other direction,” Dovilla said. “He’ll (Patten) pick up a few hundred and I’ll pick up a few hundred I would guess. I think the margin will remain the same. We’re cautiously optimistic that the verdict will hold.”
There is a chance that determination of final numbers could be delayed into December. Even after all the provisional votes are counted, there could very well be an automatic recount of the votes if the difference between the votes cast for the two candidates is equal to or less than one quarter of one percent of the total votes in the race. Either candidate can request a recount if the difference is equal to or less than one half of one percent.
“This is wide open. I’m sure that both of us agree it would be nice to have this done with,” Patten said. “You have to put your life on hold because you just don’t know. I think he and I are both learning more than we ever wanted to about provisionals.””
From NewsMax November 1, 2012.
“Ohio Voting Count ‘Nightmare’ Looms”
“With the presidential election expected to hinge on Ohio, the state’s former secretary of state, GOP stalwart Kenneth Blackwell, is warning that a little-known change in the Buckeye State’s absentee-ballot process could lead to a “nightmare scenario.”
And that scenario could force the entire country to wait 10 days after the election to find out who will be the next president of the United States. It’s a complicated situation, to say the least, but one that could have a far-reaching impact on the Nov. 6 election process.
For the first time in the key swing state’s history, Blackwell says, virtually all Ohio voters this year were mailed an application for an absentee ballot. In previous elections, most Ohio voters had to request an application for an absentee ballot to receive one.
The concern is that thousands of Ohio voters may complete the absentee-ballot application and receive an absentee ballot, but not bother to complete and mail in the ballot.
Anyone who is sent an absentee ballot — including those who do not complete it and mail it in — and later shows up at the polls on Election Day to cast their ballot in person will be instructed to instead complete a provisional ballot.
And under Ohio election law, provisional ballots cannot be opened until 10 days after an election.
“I would just say that this is a potential nightmare-in-waiting,” says Blackwell.
Blackwell believes that could result in an unprecedented number of provisional ballots being filed – some 250,000 or more. Such a large number of ballots being held, presumably under armed guard, for 10 days until they can be opened, would bring to mind the historic 2000 post-election battle in Florida. That recount was marked by ballot disputes — and inevitably, lawsuits.
“You’re talking about craziness for 10 days,” Blackwell tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview. “They won’t even be opened to be counted for 10 days.”
According to a report by Barry M. Horstman of the Cincinnati Enquirer, absentee-ballot applications were mailed to 6.9 million of Ohio’s 7.8 million registered voters.
As of Oct. 26, Ohio election officials had mailed out 1.3 absentee ballots. Of those absentee ballots, 950,000 had been completed and mailed back in.
That leaves some 350,000 absentee ballots that had been requested and sent to voters, but had not yet been received.
Ohio voters who requested an absentee ballot, but did not complete it and mail it back in, will not be allowed to vote normally.
Explains Blackwell: “So they go to the polls and say, ‘I want my ballot.’ And [poll workers] say, ‘Oh, we see you applied for an absentee ballot.’ The voter says, ‘Oh, I changed my mind.’ And they say, ‘That’s well and good, but we have to guarantee that you don’t vote twice. You have to fill out a provisional ballot.’”
Provisional ballots are used whenever someone shows up at the polls whose eligibility to vote cannot be immediately verified. Their name may not show up on the voter rolls, for example.
Rather than turn them away, state election officials typically have those individuals indicate their voting preference with a provisional ballot. Once their eligibility to vote has been established, the vote can be counted.
The use of provisional ballots is intended to prevent any voter from casting one ballot by mail, and then a second ballot at the polling place.
Ohio’s current secretary of state, Republican Jon Husted, pushed for the absentee-ballot applications to go out to all voters, according to Blackwell.
In previous Ohio elections, a few counties would automatically send out absentee-ballot applications to all their residents, while the vast majority of counties would not. Husted sought to make the absentee ballot process uniform across Ohio’s 88 counties.
In a news release, Husted said the new system would “help reduce the chance of long lines at the polls during the presidential election, and voters in smaller counties will have the same conveniences as voters in larger counties.”
No one can say how many absentee ballots will remain outstanding as of Election Day. Ohio voters have until Nov. 3 to request an absentee ballot. Election officials will accept and count absentee ballots as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 5, the day before the election.
Ordinarily, the number of provisional ballots outstanding in Ohio probably would be inconsequential. In 2008, according to the Enquirer, only about 70,000 were actually cast.
But uncertainly over perhaps a quarter-million votes would be a serious concern in Ohio, given the historically close margins of victory there.
Democrat Jimmy Carter carried Ohio by only about 11,000 votes over incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford in 1976. In 2004, GOP President George W. Bush carried the state by 118,775 votes over Democratic Sen. John Kerry, in a controversial finish that occurred during Blackwell’s tenure as secretary of state.
As of Wednesday, the RealClearPolitics average of polls in Ohio showed President Barack Obama leading GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney by 2.4 percent. That site, and many others, rate the contest as a toss-up.
No Republican has ever won the presidency without carrying Ohio. The Obama campaign has rested its re-election hopes on a firewall strategy that hinges on winning Ohio’s 18 Electoral College votes. Doing so would greatly complicate Romney’s path to garnering the 270 Electoral College votes needed to capture the presidency.
If the voter turnout in Ohio matches the 2008 level of 67 percent, some 5,226,000 votes would be cast. Under that scenario, 250,000 provisional ballots would amount to 4.8 percent of the entire vote — well over the current difference between the two candidates, according to RealClearPolitics poll average.
Other than Horstman’s report in the Cincinnati Enquirer, Ohio’s provisional ballot issue has largely flown under the radar of the national political press.
Blackwell tells Newsmax that given the uncertainty over how voters may respond to the widespread, unsolicited invitation to obtain an absentee ballot, the potential for a 10-day delay “is a major concern in terms of the management of a process that is perceived as being free, fair, and as unsuspenseful as possible.”
Hamilton County Board of Elections director Amy Searcy echoes Blackwell’s concern. She told the Enquirer that a 10-day lag while the entire nation waited for Ohio to declare who won its election “would be called my nightmare scenario.”
Matt McClellan, press secretary for the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, tells Newsmax it will be late Tuesday or early Wednesday morning before a final tally is available of how many absentee provisional ballots have been cast.
He confirmed that 2012 marks the first election year in which virtually all registered voters in Ohio were sent absentee ballot applications.
He said the department has not made any projections on how that change might impact absentee and provisional ballot voting trends. However, he emphasized that the vote-counting process in Ohio will be reliable, secure, and in accord with the state’s election laws.
“I disagree with the Enquirer story,” said McClellan. “There is not a nightmare scenario for Ohio.
“If the margin is too close, and we’re just not able to tell definitely at that point, that doesn’t mean anything bad has happened in Ohio. It means the process is proceeding as is required under law. So, will we have outstanding absentees and provisional ballots? Yes. We don’t know how many yet; we won’t know until Election Day.”
McClellan emphasized that every legal ballot will be counted.
Blackwell agrees there is no way to know yet how many provisional ballots Ohio will ultimately have to count, or if the nation might have a 10-day cliffhanger before the winner of the presidential election is known.
But he adds, “It is not an unreasonable scenario to plan against, given that this is the first time in the history of the state that every registered voter got mailed – unrequested – an absentee ballot [application].””
I am still concerned about our overseas military personnel being disenfranchised. I will continue to evaluate vote counts, especially those from military absentee ballots.