With Election Day just nine days away, disputes over how Ohio counts provisional ballots aren’t over, a reflection of a close race in what could be the decisive state in the presidential election. When questions arise at the polling place, such ballots are held, then checked to determine their validity. Ohio’s voting history indicates there could be enough disputed provisional ballots to decide the outcome.
Earlier this month, a federal appeals court rightly ruled that provisional ballots cast in the correct polling location but wrong precinct due to poll worker error must be counted. Voter advocates then sought to expand the protection to include provisional ballots cast in the same circumstances in entirely wrong polling locations.
Algenon Marbley, the federal district court judge whose right-place/wrong-precinct ruling was unsuccessfully appealed by the state, held last week that the principle applied broadly: Voters who arrive at the wrong location due to poll worker error deserve to have their ballots counted, too.
Ideally, such questions would have been settled long ago, avoiding last-minute complications. In correctly protecting voters, Marbley’s ruling would test poll workers, although Republican claims that it would encourage a “vote anywhere” mentality seem overblown. Voters always could be directed to the local board of elections.
Republicans have tried repeatedly to tinker with election laws. They shouldn’t be surprised when Democratic-leaning groups push back.