No situation shows more clearly the need for comprehensive, bipartisan action on a new elections bill than a Hamilton County case involving disputed provisional ballots. The case has left unsettled the outcome of a 2010 race for juvenile court judge.
Experts have identified Ohio’s heavy use of provisional ballots as its No. 1 voting problem, far eclipsing voter fraud, a rare occurrence. When questions arise on Election Day, voters must cast such ballots, later given a detailed examination. The Hamilton County case raises questions about which provisional ballots are counted.
In the court race, John Williams, the Republican candidate, led by 23 votes. Tracie Hunter, the Democrat, halted the count by filing a federal lawsuit concerning 150 provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct due to pollworker error. The courts have ruled the votes should be counted, concluding that Ohio’s law invalidating votes cast in the wrong precinct is unfair.
For the second time, the Hamilton County Board of Elections has tied on whether to appeal, Republicans siding with their candidate (since appointed to a second juvenile court seat) and Democrats urging that the disputed ballots be counted. It is up to Jon Husted to break the tie.
The secretary of state (a Republican) should halt the appeal. He already has urged repeal of a Republican-backed bill (up for a referendum in November) that would, among other things, bar poll workers from assisting voters in finding the right precinct. Once the law is repealed, a new effort can be made after the November election to repair in a bipartisan fashion what ails Ohio elections, including its excess of provisional ballots.