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Four Ways Ohio and Others Have Toughened Voting Rules

It’s not just voter-ID laws. Learn what else states are doing that has gotten heat.

A sign directs people where to cast their ballots during early voting at the Wood County Court House in Bowling Green, Ohio, on Oct. 2, 2012. (J.D. Pooley/Getty Images)

This post is being kept up-to-date. It was first published on Oct. 9.

Voter ID laws have received plenty of attention recently, but they're not the only controversial changes to election rules this year. Some states have made changes that critics say could impact individuals' ability to vote. Here are four.

Ohio won't count provisional ballots mistakenly cast in the wrong precinct.

Four years ago in Ohio, there were 200,000 provisional ballots cast among a total 5.7 million votes. This was the most among any state other than California. (Federal law requires states to use provisional ballots when a voter's eligibility is in question or if their registration doesn't reflect a new name or address.)

But Ohio requires county election boards to reject provisional ballots if the ballot doesn't correspond to the voter's assigned precinct — even if it was the poll worker's mistake. (A few other states have similar rules, but Ohio is fighting a lawsuit right now to preserve its approach.)

Such errors are bound to happen since 80 percent of Ohio's polling stations cover multiple precincts. In 2008, Ohio elections officials discarded 14,000 provisional ballots for this very reason. That number accounted for one-third of the total rejected provisional ballots that year.

In June, a group of labor organizations and advocacy groups sued Ohio to block enforcement of this requirement, arguing it could disenfranchise thousands of voters.

Ohio officials have argued the law is justified by the state's interest in "running elections fairly and efficiently."

"The argument is sometimes made that if states are required to count these ballots, more people would deliberately go and vote in the wrong precinct," said Wendy R. Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice.

During oral arguments before a federal judge earlier this year, a lawyer for Ohio hinted at such a scenario when he challenged the strength of the plaintiffs' evidence. "Something else is going on that may not be poll-worker error," he said, as noted in a footnote to the judge's ruling.

In August, a federal judge ruled against Ohio's approach. The state's interest in fair and efficient elections, wrote U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley for the Southern District of Ohio, "falls short of what is required to justify its inevitable disenfranchisement of thousands of qualified voters in the November 2012 election."

Ohio has appealed the decision, arguing that the rule helps with "counting only valid, legal ballots, in running a smooth election, and in minimizing post-election litigation." Allowing such provisional ballots to count, the state further argued, would make it "more difficult for elections officials to monitor and keep up with the voting process."

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard arguments in the case in early October, upheld the lower court’s decision, concluding that the prohibition would “disqualify thousands of right-place/wrong-precinct provisional ballots, where the voter’s only mistake was relying on the poll-worker’s precinct guidance.”

As of October 18, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office told ProPublica it had not yet decided whether to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ohio tried to shorten its early voting period — until a federal court ruled otherwise.

Ohio used to permit in-person early voting for registered voters in the three days prior to Election Day. (More than 30 other states have similar early voting options, mostly for those who can't make it on Election Day.) But last year, the Ohio General Assembly limited the window. Early voting, which began Oct. 2, was scheduled to end 6 p.m. the Friday before Election Day. (Members of the military and overseas voters were exempt from the narrowed time frame.)

Democrats have been proponents of early voting: An estimated 93,000 Ohioans voted early in 2008. A subsequent University of Akron study concluded that early voters were "more likely to be strong Democrats than election-day voters" — including women, older voters and lower-income individuals.

In defending the law, Ohio elections officials argued that administering early voting the weekend before Election Day for all registered voters would interfere with counties' Election Day preparation, and that military voters have a unique need for being exempt.

In July, Obama for America, the Democratic National Committee and the Ohio Democratic Party asked a federal court to block the new rule, arguing that "tens of thousands of citizens who would have otherwise exercised their right to vote during this time period, including Plaintiffs' members and supporters, may not be able to participate in future elections at all."

In August, U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus in Ohio agreed to block the law, writing that creating two separate early voting deadlines would place more value on one person's vote over another's. On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed this decision. County elections officials, as in 2008, will still have discretion over whether to open up early voting to all.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. On October 16, the justices declined to take up the appeal, prompting Husted to issue an early voting directive to the state’s county boards of elections. As the Nation reports, the order provides for a much narrower early voting window than what Ohio’s largest counties offered in 2008.

Iowa has hired a criminal agent to investigate voter fraud allegations.

In July, the Associated Press reported that Iowa signed a two-year $280,000 contract with an investigator from the state Division of Criminal Investigation to handle suspected cases of voter fraud. The agent's duties, according to the AP, are "subpoenaing voting records, checking their citizenship status, and interviewing suspects as he builds cases."

Iowa's Secretary of State Matt Schultz has identified more than 1,000 names of potential non-citizens to investigate. (Schultz has not responded to requests for comment.)

The first few cases haven't exactly revealed massive fraud: Two Canadian citizens arrested and charged with felony election misconduct for voting in 2010 and 2011 said they mistakenly believed they could vote in non-presidential elections as legal residents. A third person arrested was a Mexico native whose U.S. citizenship was challenged by the state.

As we've noted before, studies show that voter fraud is actually quite rare.

Other measures taken by Schultz's office — such as allowing anonymous voter fraud online complaints and pursuing non-citizen purging — has prompted legal action from the ACLU.

Texas has notified (living) voters that they are "potentially deceased."

Last year, the Texas Legislature passed a bill to ensure dead people were kept off its voter rolls. States have long been required to maintain clean voter rolls, so such updating isn't new.

But Texas went further, giving the secretary of state authority to conduct voter roll purges using relatively loose criteria like shared names and birthdate.

The result is that live voters have received notice that if they don't respond within 30 days, they're assumed dead and will be removed from the voter rolls.

The state's largest voting district, Harris County, has sent such letters to about 4,000 "potentially deceased" voters.

"Several hundred responded that said, 'Yeah, I'm still alive,'" said Fred King, communications manager for the Harris County Voter Registrar and Tax Office.

Election experts say that's not surprising. "The problem is that there is a much higher incidence of sharing names and birth dates than people realize," said David Becker, director of election initiatives at the Pew Center on the States.

After a lawsuit from four quite live voters, Texas agreed last week to roll back the purge. "Potentially deceased" voters will still be flagged, but will only be removed from the rolls if there's a hard match. (Secretary of State Hope Andrade has said that's just a technical change.)

The purge had also been criticized for being started just months before the election. The new law mandating the controversial letters took effect a year ago in September 2011. Texas didn't start the purge until just this June.

"Most states recognize it's good policy to do this throughout the year rather than right before an election," says Becker of the Pew Center on the States.

So what explains Texas' decision to wait?

"We wanted to run the process with enough time between elections," Texas Secretary of State spokesman Richard Parsons told ProPublica. "Unfortunately repeated election delays, shifting deadlines and uncertainty all caused by ongoing redistricting litigation did not allow for this process to move forward any sooner."

Iowa has also now charged two felons with registering to vote.  One thought he was entitled to vote after serving his sentence; the other didn’t pay attention while updating her license.
http://blogs.desmoinesregister.com/dmr/index.php/2012/10/04/two-felons-charged-with-election-fraud/article

A state senator has challenged the Secretary of State’s use of federal funds to pay for criminal investigators, and has asked both the state auditor and the inspector general for the US Election Assistance Commission to investigate.
http://blogs.desmoinesregister.com/dmr/index.php/2012/10/02/iowa-lawmaker-asks-state-federal-officials-to-investigate-secretary-of-states-voter-purge-effort/article

Charley James

Oct. 8, 2012, 3:19 p.m.

State efforts to curb voting is a key reason why Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) plans to introduce the Martin Luther King Voter Registration Act of 2013 early in the new session.

As I reported a week ago (http://www.laprogressive.com/voter-suppression-3/), the purpose is to allow all eligible voters to cast a ballot for at least members of Congress, Senators and for president. A Constitutional lawyer said in the piece that it would withstand scrutiny by even the Roberts court.

So Ohio might be able to prevent a likely Democratic voter from electing, say, the Columbus Weed Control District director, the state would be barred from stopping anyone from voting for candidates running for national office.

James M. Fitzsimmons

Oct. 8, 2012, 4:17 p.m.

Voter identification is the key, it seems to me. One vote for one properly identified eligible voter. An eligible voter with proper ID can more easily establish in what jurisdiction they are eligible to vote. Indigent eligible voters in need of proper identification should be assisted by the State or Federal Government in procuring proper ID without charge or expense pursuant to a sworn declaration of need. The cost of such a program would be infinitesimal in comparison to the Deficit or National debt. It is hard for me to imagine how possession of valid ID could hurt an indigent citizen. The questions that remain in my mind are… “do the progressive ideologues really want fair elections and do they really care about the welfare of the less fortunate among us?”.

Gio Wiederhold

Oct. 8, 2012, 5:36 p.m.

Mr. Fitzsimmons, you state ” Indigent eligible voters in need of proper identification should be assisted by the State or Federal Government in procuring proper ID without charge or expense pursuant to a sworn declaration of need. ”  Fine, But is that happening now? Once you achieve that goal,  then you can demand voter IDs, not now.
Gio

Unimbedded journalism like yours is sorely needed and appreciated. The corporate media has financial interest in keeping the populace in the dark about anything that would make us wake up and do something about our sorry state.

But I find it hard to understand your refusal to face the elephant (the metaphor is a pun, unfortunately) in the voting booth. Yes, the Repugnicans are trying to stifle voters with “new Jim Crow” laws, and that needs to be opposed.

But it’s only one part of their strategy, and not the most important one—in fact, I suspect that using that as a distraction is part of the plan. So why aren’t YOU reporting the total unverifiability (and hence untrustworthiness) of the voting machines and the machines that tabulate the votes? And the close ties to Repugnicans of those making and selling and servicing those machines? This is the bigger problem.

The evidence is known, and voluminous. You have no excuse to not have read or reported on anything by Mark C. Miller [http://markcrispinmiller.com], Richard Hayes Phillips, Bob Fitrakis, Brad Friedman [http://www.bradblog.com], Bev Harris [http://blackboxvoting.org], Richard Charnin [http://richardcharnin.com], Jonathan Simon [http://electiondefensealliance.org], and others who have tirelessly pursued the story of the worst fixing of our elections ever.

Here’s a new one pertaining to Romney specifically: http://www.intrepidreport.com/archives/7517

The Republicans stole the presidential election in 2004. The evidence is overwhelming, and much of it was available immediately. Watch Stephen Spoonamore on youtube if you don’t believe it. Look up Clint Curtis, Michael Connell.

The current RepugniFox meme that the polls aren’t to be trusted is part of a PLAN. When the polls don’t fit the reported outcome, they will shout that the votes are correct, when it is they who control the COUNTING.

the only way to stop them from doing this (whether or not it changes THIS presidential election, which is not the only level affected) is to TELL PEOPLE THE FACTS.

The soundbite solution:
Paper ballots.
Hand counted.
In public.
At the precinct.
Results publicly posted before the ballots leave the premises.
yes, it’s slow. but it’s the only honest way to have a democracy. The computer voting machines CANNOT be made to be accountable. This has been demonstrated again and again.

Woody Woodrich

Oct. 8, 2012, 6:02 p.m.

I suspect that Mr. Fitzsimmons is one of thosse people who beat their chests and yell about ‘freedom’ and ‘liberety’ and brag about American “exceptionalism”.  They dont see any contradictions.

steve milosic

Oct. 8, 2012, 11:32 p.m.

I’m sure Mr Fitzt is a Fox terrorist news viewer.

My concern in Canada or inseparable land of North-America is: I won’t be served “still delaying or withheld Justice” (as explained in Shahislam.com) if Obama is not re-elected.
Born to lead the World for at least this 21st century Barack Obama is capable of positively changing the economy of new digital age by letting things move forward. Then only, the days of invisible financial crooks or too greedy thieves in the disguise of noblemen or the “IAH”, “IMS” etc. will come to an end. This election is the last chance and a “do or die situation” for some hereditary wealthy guys and they remotely by using money and by using suicidal minded criminals can kill even Barack, Mitt, you and me -any one for creating public confusion just like recent and past 9/11 sabotaging killings of own people or allies or US diplomats and innocent citizens of USA.       

Romney is backed by unlimited funds of oil money from the super wealthy businessmen and all kind of ‘hereditary king type old thugs’ of the East and West including those of Arabian deserts.
Money talks for media and USD$ cash fund of billions of $ are ready, if and when needed, for Romney or Ryan for purchasing undecied, ‘No value of wisdom’ -votes of an ordinary (Belief-blind or brain-dead or no-brainer) guy -who’d happily sell each vote for a few dollars cash. Mitt and Paul have the backing of a faceless group with hedge-hog characteristics that have also too long arms to manipulate the power of the world-leading Western Supreme Court systems; therefore, in 2004 and earlier non-digital style voting result will definitely be manipulated

Re-posted for the reason of previous incomplete post.

Oct 9, 2012 @ 4:54AM ( Note: When directly writing on the web-page of ProPublica my edit button mysteriously become frozen. Therefore, I posted unfinished and un-redacted writing first on ProPublica’s page and then disconnected Internet link; then became able to copy and paste the texts and now continuing writing on Yahoo’s web-page.)



My concern in Canada or inseparable land of North-America is: Whether I would honestly be served “still delaying or withheld Justice” (as explained in http://WWW.Shahislam.com) if Obama is not re-elected. Our Territorial Upper level of judicial Authorities have been provided with all the fact based evidences of wrong-doings by the Crown of Canada and some compulsive Liars and Crown-document manipulators of unknown and British origins. The written decision of the Judicial Review of the Case as described in http://www.shahislam.com has not yet arrived in my mailbox and that is the reason why I cannot forward my Case(s) to the Territorial Supreme Court as of this date: Oct 9, 2012.


Born to lead the World for at least this 21st century Barack Obama is capable of positively changing the economy of new digital age by ‘letting significant things of national and North-American interests’ move forward. Then only, the days of invisible financial crooks or too greedy thieves in the disguise of noblemen or the “IAH”, “IMS” etc. of ‘outdated political atmosphere of dishonesty’ will come to an end.

This election is the last chance and a “do or die situation” for some hereditary wealthy guys and these guys remotely by using money transferred through a chain of strangers hands and by using suicidal minded criminals are able to kill even Barack, Mitt, you and me -any one for fulfilling their desire and satisfying their greed by creating public confusion just like recent and past 9/11 sabotaging killings of own people or allies or US diplomats and innocent citizens of USA.

Recent surge in domestic and foreign gun-crimes are nothing unexpected but deliberate works of the folks of “Oil-wealthy thugs, businessmen of the bombs and nuclear threat and fake-crocodile etc.”.  In this digital era, our territorial Supreme Courts (Canadian and US identical Judicial systems are designed and operated by nepotistically selected same class or similar group of guys) if run and presided by real honest guys of mixed origins with strong and impartial sense of morality can easily find the truth by impartially examining and allowing the hidden electronic evidences to surface, instead of let those vanish in the name of procedural destruction.

(Personally, as regard to my own case, I’m concerned that the electronic evidences -as preserved publicly in http://WWW.SHAHISLAM.COM may become subject to procedural destruction before my case(s) go to Supreme Courts as the local court, in some instances, became reluctant to supply me with electronic copy of my own transcripts that was fully paid from my last saved penny of my earnings from hard works. Moreover, among numerous Justices; one of only two dark-skinned Judges, I have felt, acted with true sense of honest justice on December 5, 2008 in Brampton, Ontario Court-house and then never to be found his face or name again despite my repeated requests to personnel of the Crown.)   

       
Romney is backed by unlimited funds of oil money from the super wealthy businessmen and all kind of ‘hereditary king type old thugs’ of the East and West including those of Arabian deserts.
Money talks for media and USD$ cash fund of billions of $ are ready, if and when needed, for Romney or Ryan for purchasing undecided, ‘No value of wisdom’ -votes of an ordinary (Belief-blind or brain-dead or no-brainer) guy -who’d happily sell each vote for a few dollars cash. Mitt and Paul have the backing of a faceless group with hedge-hog characteristics that have also too long arms to manipulate the power of the world-leading Western Supreme Court systems; therefore, in 2004 and earlier periods’ non-digital styles and unthinkable other nasty, unfair means, actual voting result of ensuing November 2012 will definitely be manipulated and even our Supreme Courts won’t be able to act honestly; unless guys beside Barack become pro-active and extra-vigilant.

15-9-12

Then, this is also getting clear and proven that the suppression of Unofficial speculation of facts is one of the main objectives of the faceless guys in highest power in our North-American upper Courts such as Supreme Courts that are supposed to react on the truth only and rely on nothing but the truth only for truly administering justice.
When it becomes doubtful whether above-they are operating in otherwise manner with facts of lies; then, how any wise, inquisitive mind can ignore the claims.

Gio Wiederhold

Really,,, So vote with no identification, now why would you want to do that?

No one can explain to me why it is harder for a Republican, liberal, or progressive so much harder to get and ID than it is for any other group.
How many dead voted in the last presidential election only ACORN and some others know. Some went to jail, Google it.

Also Google ACORN AND VOTER FRAUD, this is why Refuges want ID.
One needs ID for almost everything else why not this??? or do you have a [problem with it.
It is harder for those other groups because they do not believe in God nor in helping a Neighbor all for self…. Is my point, Most Refuges are Religious so they would help a neighbor in need.. Obama want even help his half brother in Kenya nor his Illegal Aunt;
living in the US..
Obama is a one per center and owns a 6,200 Square foot home in West side Chicago with 6 bathrooms and has 6 million in a bank account…. Yea real humble people. And MOCHELLE bought a 6, 000 dollar coat to visit the queen of Britain, Google it.
Yea I know the truth hurts but opening one’s eyes should always be a plus… No God DNC National Convention, Charlotte NC 2012. VOTE Loud and Clear was NO!!! Ahhhh it is on tape; You tube and others…. Truth hurts

Democratics the Party of NO GOD..
(See you tube tape of DNC Convention Charlotte N.C.  2012.

Where thry voted three times.
The vote was about putting the word god or reference to God in their Agenda.

The Vote Loud and clear was NO THREE times, with the last vote no being the loudest..
Watch the tape for your selves.
Ill say this at least Romney beleives in God

I’ll say it again:  Focusing on VOTER fraud is a lovely misdirection.  While we’re all arguing over whether it’s better to allow a Canadian to vote or prevent a grandmother from voting, we don’t notice that the votes themselves have become utterly opaque.

Today, you vote, and that’s the last piece of information you have until the final counts are available.

Historically, though, the polling station posted its partial results in plain view, so you could get a sense of whether the numbers were valid.  The town, county, and state posted the results they were given and their subtotals before passing them along.  This made for easy verification by anybody monitoring the election.

Today, though, if you point out that the Diebold (or whoever they are, this week) machines could be trivially reprogrammed to miscount voting totals, that gets you sued for copyright infringement under the DMCA.  (Shown in “Hacking Democracy,” but the original research and reporting from folks like Shamos at CMU is a better place to start than a sensationalistic documentary.)

So the question is, what does it matter whether a dozen felons or Canadians cast votes if you or I can’t tell if our votes are even counted?

(Ideally, you should be able to publish the entire voting record with a “receipt” for each vote cast to be able to verify it cryptographically.  If everybody can each see his or her vote and any of us can count the votes for each candidate, there’s no room for fraud.  At that point, we can go back to the Canadian/grandmother debate, because it’s actually meaningful.)

Mr. Fitzsimmons I made a mistake years ago, long before Republicans were screaming about voter fraud, I went to the wrong precinct.  I was told ‘your in the wrong precinct you aren’t on the list, you need to go to .......’

That was in the days before computers were common place.  If it can be done then it can be done now.  All this talk about voter fraud is pure BS from BS Mountain.

This isn’t about fair elections its about disenfranchising those would most likely will vote Democrat.

As I have said in the past Republicans controlled either one or both Houses of Congress from the mid 90’s due to the voter fraud they claim is rampant.  Not the spin you want but sound spin all the same.

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Buying Your Vote

Buying Your Vote: Dark Money and Big Data

ProPublica is following the money and exploring campaign issues in the 2012 election you won't read about elsewhere.

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