New Rules Enacted For Provisional Ohio Ballots

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – The state’s elections chief on Tuesday issued new rules for counting provisional ballots in response to a federal judge’s order seeking more access for the coming presidential election.

Secretary of State Jon Husted directed poll workers to count all so-called “right church, wrong pew” ballots. Those are ballots cast by voters who show up at the correct polling place but are mistakenly directed to an area of the polling place where votes for other precincts are being cast.

U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley decided in an August order that this issue has become an increasing problem as the number of multi-precinct locations grows, particularly in urban areas. Such locations typically include several precincts grouped into a central polling location to save money. Poll workers gave 3,380 wrong precinct provisional ballots to voters last year, and the judge anticipated more of this type of ballot in the November election, pitting Democrat President Barack Obama against Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

The judge had set Tuesday as the deadline for Husted to lay out new rules ensuring more provisional ballots can be cast. His order came in a lawsuit filed by groups including a homeless voting advocacy group and several unions.

Husted plans to appeal a portion of the order calling for provisional ballots to be counted when the envelopes in which ballots are placed lack the proper signatures. Spokesman Matt McClellan said every other type of ballot at this stage of the process requires a signature so allowing certain provisional ballots to go without signatures would be inconsistent.