Court steps in to save voters from Republican suppression efforts. Again.

The (now) near-daily, last-minute rescue continues:

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursady that Ohio can’t toss out ballots that were cast in the wrong precinct but in the right location because of poll worker error.

Huge win for the good guys in Ohio:

It is especially important because this was a very conservative Sixth Circuit panel, and it affirms the idea that Bush v. Gore and Sixth Circuit precedent requires some degree of uniformity and fairness in the counting of ballots.

The application of Ohio Rev. Code §§ 3505.183(B)(4)(a)(ii) and (B)(4)(b)(ii) to right-place/wrong-precinct ballots caused by poll-worker error effectively requires voters to have a greater knowledge of their precinct, precinct ballot, and polling place than poll workers. Absent such omniscience, the State will permanently reject their ballots without an opportunity to cure the situation. The mere fact that these voters cast provisional ballots does not justify this additional burden; as the district court explained, Ohio law now requires thirteen different categories of voters to cast provisional ballots, ranging from individuals who do not have an acceptable form of identification to those who requested an absentee ballot or whose signature was deemed by the precinct official not to match the name on the registration forms….
Nor has the State shown abuse in the district court’s fashioning of injunctive relief tailored to the identified harm. The State would disqualify thousands of rightplace/wrong-precinct provisional ballots, where the voter’s only mistake was relying on the poll-worker’s precinct guidance. That path unjustifiably burdens these voters’ fundamental right to vote. Recognizing that a prospective remedy could not undo all of the harm occasioned by poll-worker error, the district court crafted a narrow remedy that preserves as much of a miscast ballot as possible.

This problem is called “right church, wrong pew.” To understand it, it’s important to make a distinction between a polling place and a precinct within a polling place. Here, the voter would not qualify for a standard ballot, and would be forced to rely on a provisional ballot. The poll worker would then mistakenly direct the voter to cast the provisional ballot in the wrong precinct. Wrong precinct. Right polling location. Republicans want the ballot that was cast in the wrong precinct due to poll worker error thrown out. Democrats and voting rights advocates want it counted in.

This problem came to light in a county juvenile judge race in 2010. There, a federal judge did an extremely thorough job and determined that poorly trained poll workers were making “right church wrong pew” mistakes, and also directing voters who should have voted a standard ballot to a provisional ballot.

If the Presidential election in Ohio is close, it will come down to provisional ballots.

106 replies
  1. 1
    Ben Franklin says:

    Provisional ballots wait 7-10 days before the count.

    Isn’t this wiggle-room for mischief?

  2. 2
    the Conster says:

    Republicans are cockroaches in the kitchen of democracy. That is all.

  3. 3
    Kay says:

    @Ben Franklin:

    No. As of yesterday, we have poll watchers admitted for the whole provisional ballot counting process. This is becoming a part-time job, I have to say. Between early vote-watching and after-vote watching we should probably start paying the lawyers :)

  4. 4

    Meanwhile, Darrell Issa is stepping in to save us from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    GOP Plans Congressional Investigation Into September Jobs Number Conspiracy

  5. 5
    Linda Featheringill says:

    I just voted [Ohio]. Loooong ballot, with lots of local stuff. We’ll have to take the packet to the post office to mail it. I get a little paycheck tomorrow and so we can do it then.

    There are 7 parties with candidates for president: Socialist, Nonparty, Constitution, Libertarian, Democratic, Republican, and Green.

  6. 6
    eric says:

    you libtards wont stop until this country is like the soviet union where anyone could vote without id and where union thugs ran roughshod over the politicians.

  7. 7
    Xantar says:

    I honestly want to know: what is the Republican argument against this ruling? I just never hear anybody trying to justify tossing out provisional ballots that have been wrongly cast through no fault of the voter. Is there some kind of ACORN-conspiracy involved?

  8. 8
    feebog says:

    As a poll worker in California for several years, I have run across this problem. We often have two precincts in one location, and sometimes as many as three. It is extremely important for the poll workers to know the precinct boundries not just for their precinct, but for all the surrounding precincts as well. I always try to direct the voter to right precinct, even if it is in another location. The thought that a provisional ballot would not be counted because the poll worker screwed up is really screwed up.

  9. 9
    Kay says:


    We used this issue when we did petitions to stay their last voter suppression law. It was great. NO ONE thinks this is fair. NO ONE. People would sign immediately when it was explained.

  10. 10
    Origuy says:

    @eric: DougJ, are you training an intern?

  11. 11
    Mark S. says:

    The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursady that Ohio can’t toss out ballots that were cast in the wrong precinct but in the right location because of poll worker error.

    I should fucking hope so. Seriously, there was some douchebag lawyer arguing the other side?

  12. 12
    PeakVT says:

    @Xantar: I believe the Republican argument is something along the lines of “poor/minority voters are more likely to be disenfranchised.” No, that’s not a good argument.

  13. 13
    the Conster says:


    Needs moar New Black Panthers.

  14. 14

    @Xantar: Why, the integrity of the ballot, of course! If those moochers couldn’t be bothered to learn for themselves which precinct to use even though the poll workers gave them the wrong information, they don’t deserve a vote.

    In general, today’s GOP has a mindset that says anything bad that happens to someone else was entirely their own fault and they deserve whatever happens. Not giving them what they deserve would be all soft and womanly.

  15. 15
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    Troll desperately needs training and education.

  16. 16
    quannlace says:

    Oh, Sweet God. Do not let the election come down to counting provisional ballots. I don’t think I could survive another ‘2000’ type election again.

  17. 17
    Ash says:

    Kay, I’m curious, how are things looking for the President in Ohio? Are most of the people there not buying into Romney’s constant stream of bullshit? The current numbers and early voting breakdown are the only things that’s keeping me sane at the moment.

  18. 18
    catclub says:

    @Origuy: too much irony. Not convincing.

  19. 19
    quannlace says:

    and where union thugs ran roughshod over the politicians.

    Yup, Stalin was so intimidated by those ‘union thugs.’ You’re funnier than a cartoon.

  20. 20
    eric says:

    @catclub: i walk the line of making sure it is seen as snark and really nailing the ramblings of a brain damaged RW freak. cause without the snark, we might as well be reading yahoo comments

  21. 21
    👽 Martin says:

    @feebog: When I lived in NY, the rule-of-thumb was fairly easy for voters to follow – go to the elementary school that serves your house. I don’t know if it was an actual rule, but it seemed to work without fail.

    California is kind of insane about it. I’ve voted in people’s garages, at the fire station, at the retirement home, at a community center. Honestly, every house in the nation is covered by an elementary school. They’re lines that rarely move and tend to draw out relatively uniform population groups. They’re public buildings accustomed to serving a relatively large audience, with parking and easy access – and when peak voting takes place in the evening, the building is otherwise empty. Why ‘elementary school’ isn’t the national rule, with a standard for the number of ballot stations per capita is completely beyond me. This shit should so goddamn easy.

  22. 22
    Petorado says:

    It’s refreshing to see the courts rule that clerical errors are not a reason to usurp Constitutionally-protected rights. Expecting to see Republicans counter with an argument that this goes against “the rule of law,” because rules are rules baby, and this places the nation under greater threat of anarchy so stomping on the rights of the individual is a small price to pay … especially if the individual is likely to be a Democrat.

  23. 23
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Mark S.: Several did. Hell, I went to law school with some of them.

  24. 24
    👽 Martin says:

    @Mark S.: Yes, because voters should recognize when they’re being given wrong or misleading information by officials. See Teatards v. Blah Subprime Mortgage Holders as precedent.

  25. 25
    handy says:

    @👽 Martin:

    Heh, at the ’03 recall I voted at a hotel which also was hosting a Furrie convention. Good times in the lobby.

  26. 26
    Culture of Truth says:

    It would be hilairous if urban dudes could deny country boys the right to buy a gun by giving them the wrong paperwork. That would go over great.

  27. 27

    @Martin: In Illinois, I’ve voted at my dorm, several churches, the local library, and the Farm Bureau. Never at a school.

  28. 28
    Cassidy says:

    I’m going to spam again because Kay’s threads are so good and popular. Again, I apologize. I”m probably going to pick one day a week to do this, unless asked not to, and just periodically throw it up.

    My Firefighter class has to do a service project as part of our course. It’s not in the curriculum, but our Chief thinks it’s important to remind everyone we’re supposed to be role models and public servants; I agree with the sentiment. So, my class has chosen this one. I personally don’t have any attachment to lung cancer other than my continual fight to quit smoking, but this is what my class voted on. We’re doing the “Fight for Air” climb in February 2013 and between now and then we’re trying to raise $100 or more per person. If you have some spare change that you haven’t allotted for political races, would you consider it? Thank you.

    Your donation buys you a small part of misery on my part. We’ll be climbing 42 floors/ flights of stairs in full bunker gear and air pack.

  29. 29
    Culture of Truth says:

    I’ve always voted at the local dressage ring. This should be standard, in my opinion.

  30. 30
    Kay says:


    Early voting went really well. My take is all of the early work here is paying off. I have to say, though, no one here was thinking this was going to be easy. No one here thought Obama was ten points ahead, for example, or if they did, they knew it would tighten. We just think the state is (basically) 50/50 and we’ll end up somewhere closer to that.

    I was worried on Saturday morning due to the general nervous breakdown, so I went out to both field offices although I was not due to be in (one) until 2 PM. I just wanted to see how much of the cable/internet panic was sinking in. People were completely calm, so that was nice. I worked on the voter protection stuff this week (that is kept apart from The Campaign, deliberately) so I haven’t checked in lately. I’m going to watch the VP debate with them tonight, though.

  31. 31
    shortstop says:

    @handy: Voting moments to remember!

    My polling place has changed and I now vote at an Islamic college. With luck, no insane winger will try to blow it up to prevent all of us inside from embracing sharia.

  32. 32
    shortstop says:

    @Kay: Coming to Toledo the next two weekends to pound the pavement!

  33. 33
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    Husted is just getting his ass kicked right and left in Fed court.

  34. 34
    The Other Chuck says:

    I never used to talk like a violent revolutionary, but when it comes to voter suppression, I start making remarks about treason, hanging from lampposts, and so on. Seriously, it’s as direct an attack on the country itself as any act of war. One has to wonder how long the Cold Civil War will stay cold.

  35. 35
    Corner Stone says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Dude is just a hardcore moran.

    Speaking of voting places, my ex asked me the other day where we’re voting this election. I said I have no idea where she’s voting. And she was all, “Shouldn’t we be voting at the same place since we live in the same area?”

    Ummmm…no. Check the website people.

  36. 36

    @Omnes Omnibus: Luckily for him, his “heroic” efforts will surely earn him some sweet wingnut welfare dollars when this is over.

  37. 37
    PurpleGirl says:

    @👽 Martin: When I lived in Astoria, I voted at an elementary school. Until one year they decided to switch locations for my Election District. I either didn’t get or threw out the notice and went to the school to vote and was turned away. That was the year I was unable to walk very much due to back problems and I had to get a taxi to the other location.

    Where I live now, the polling place is in one of the complex’s buildings and we have something like 5 Election Districts in the same room.

  38. 38
    Sly says:

    Don’t worry. We’ll stop right before our political opponents are tossed into Gulags for 20 years. Promise.

  39. 39
    Ash says:


    That sounds great! With regards to early voting, how much of the total vote consists of this?

    I’m going to volunteer for the first time this weekend since at the very least it should help calm me down and keep me away from polls and opinions while also doing some good.

  40. 40
    Kay says:

    @The Other Chuck:

    You really can divide a room on it. Clear division. It’s “hot”, too, in that people who feel strongly about it get absolutely nuts. I include myself there. I had an election law class in law school and I thought we were going to start throwing chairs. I would walk out of there just fuming. We had this horrible conservative sneering twerp who had been some sort of low-level aide to a state representative and he and I would just battle daily.

  41. 41
    Paul says:


    Good job! You included the Soviet Union. Jack Welch would be so proud of you!

  42. 42
    Corner Stone says:

    @PurpleGirl: My voting place has changed every year I have lived here (10 yrs roughly). Last time I voted in a Ford dealership.

  43. 43


    As a poll worker in California for several years, I have run across this problem. We often have two precincts in one location, and sometimes as many as three.

    We actually have four precincts at my polling place. To help sort out this kind of problem, the precincts are color coded. For example, I know that my precinct will be the orange table this election. Your sample ballot includes your precinct’s color as well as the address of the voting place, and there’s a color coded map outside so you can check again before getting in line if you’ve forgotten. It seems like a very nice system, though not perhaps as nice as giving each precinct its own polling place would be.

  44. 44
    Origuy says:

    California precincts are a mess because there are so many different districts. In my precinct, I’m in a certain Congressional district, state Senate district, state legislature district, city council district, elementary school district, high school district, and community college district. One could also be in a specific fire protection district, water board district, etc. The intersection of all these boundaries, or at least those having a race in a given election, defines a precinct.
    I’ve seen polling places where multiple precincts are voting. The only way you know which line to stand in is by looking at your sample ballot, which is sent to every registered voter.
    My polling place is usually the county Mental Health Center. Somehow that just seems right.

  45. 45
    Kay says:


    It has been around 20-30% but they are shooting for 40%. It is my opinion that Obama did not receive the labor-voter support that Democrats generally get in Ohio in ’08, so I think our big labor battle in 2011 combined with Sherrod Brown being on the ballot (labor favorite) can bump up his share among that group.

  46. 46
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    “Ohio Secretary of State” is becoming synonymous with “dickhead.” Ken Blackwell, Jon Husted, fuck. What’s most disappointing is that it’s an elective office. Three out of the last five Secretaries have been Republicans. How sad is that?

  47. 47
    rikyrah says:

    been waiting to see your writeup about this Kay. I will send some money every damn week to any opponent of Husted’s.

  48. 48
    Maude says:

    OT The liveblog could be a problem because people come through BJ site to access it. A tone of us trying to get onto the site would seem to overburden the server.
    Someone had mentioned this the night it was tested.

  49. 49
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Kay: itbis the liberal/conservative divide on most issues. Conservatives are so concerned that someone might do something wrong or get something that they do not deserve that they are willing deny innocent people their rights to prevent it from happening

  50. 50
    The Moar You Know says:

    It would be hilairous if urban dudes could deny country boys the right to buy a gun by giving them the wrong paperwork.

    @Culture of Truth: A better way is how they do it in Mexico. In Mexico (lived next to it all my life and did not know this) you have the constitutional right to own a legally purchased gun, which you have to buy at the gun store.

    Gun store, as in singular for the entire nation. Located in Mexico City. Takes several decades to process the paperwork, so sorry.

  51. 51

    @👽 Martin:

    California is kind of insane about it. I’ve voted in people’s garages, at the fire station, at the retirement home, at a community center.

    For a number of years, my polling place was in a car dealership; I guess the owner volunteered it as a polling place. After that it was in my local library branch, and now it’s in a church. I think one good reason for not having it in schools is that for a big part of the day the schools are full of students, and having voters go through is disruptive.

  52. 52
    Ash says:


    40% would be amazing and wouldn’t that also seal the win for Obama?

    I’m surprised about Obama not receiving full labor support in 2008; obviously a good sign if he has room to improve in that area. Have there been recent ads reminding voters about Romney’s time at Bain, his 47% comment and his opinion on the bailout?

  53. 53
    shortstop says:

    @Roger Moore: We have six precincts at my polling place. I’ve never had a problem in the eight years we’ve lived here, but in my old polling spot (in BGinCHI’s current ‘hood), we were in a split precinct and the election judges were forever giving us the wrong ballots. They just couldn’t be convinced that the line between the 9th congressional district (Jan Schakowsky) and the 5th district (then Rahm, now Mike Quigley) did not actually run down the middle of my husband’s and my bed.

    I think it’s kind of cool that people vote in garages and car dealerships and hardware stores. There’s something very grassroots-democracy-symbolic about that.

  54. 54
    Maude says:

    @Roger Moore:
    Here, one district is in the library, Mine is in a church.

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    I guess the Ohio SoS is learning about turn the other cheek, the hard way.

  55. 55
    catclub says:

    OT: That plane stopped by Turkey en route to Syria could turn out to be a big deal. Missile parts and radios.

  56. 56
    Kay says:


    Manufacturing and skilled trades unions are older and whiter and more male than service unions. The general rule is Republicans get btwn 40 and 45% of their vote. I think Obama was on the high end of that, based on what I heard here.

    No one talks about it, but it’s real. It creates a lot of resentment, because Democratic union voters think these voters are voting Republican on taxes and social issues, to the detriment of labor issues. It DOES get old. One feels as if they are phone-banking and such to protect Republican union voters from the real consequences of electing anti-union Republicans. You get sick of doing that.

  57. 57


    The intersection of all these boundaries, or at least those having a race in a given election, defines a precinct.

    That defines the maximum size of the precinct, but in many cases that would result in enormous, unwieldy precincts. For example, I think that for the current election, all of Pasadena would wind up as a single precinct by that standard. There’s no way in hell they’re going to have a single precinct for 140,000 people, so the city is divided up further than that.

  58. 58
    Ruckus says:

    @👽 Martin:
    When I lived in OH we voted in a church. There were 3 or 4 precincts represented. One thing I noticed was the precinct lines frequently went down the middle of a street. So two different precincts for the same neighborhood for the same street. The poll workers had to be right on top of it or mistakes were made.
    As for schools when I voted in OH the biggest crowds were in the morning before work and after dinner. In 2004 I showed up at 8am and didn’t vote till around 11:30. This would have been a real problem at a school.
    Now in CA I vote by mail. Same scan ballot. It’s much better.

  59. 59
    hep kitty says:

    @TooManyJens: Ok, thanks for confirming for me that I am, indeed, still hallucinating.

  60. 60
    Capt. Seaweed says:

    The all-knowing and all-seeing Oregon Ballot SenderOuter scans my name in it’s datafile and thru the miracle of electrons automatically mails me the correct ballot for the district I live in. The computer does not get confused. The computer is trained to make it easy. It has all the directions. When it comes time to vote I can pop that ballot into any mailbox in the world, and as long as it gets to my County Office before 8PM on election night that vote will be counted. This is how we do it.

  61. 61
    Ruckus says:

    horrible conservative sneering twerp

    That describes a pretty wide swath of conservatives in my experience.

  62. 62
    Ruckus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    When I moved to OH from CA, I got the distinct impression that the overriding theme of OH was, You can’t do that. It was palpable and invaded almost everything. And it wasn’t even always the government, a lot of the population seemingly felt that way.

  63. 63

    I don’t understand the “right polling place, wrong precinct” thing. If you’re at the right polling place, wouldn’t you be in the right precinct already? I don’t get this. Do they assign voters from A-M one line that leads to one booth and the N-Z ones another line to another booth or something like that? And as long as the ballots are anonymous, why would anybody care anyway? Where we vote, Virginia, they often break us into A-M and N-Z, but we can go into any booth once we’ve signed in. When I lived in Pennsylvania, they didn’t even break us into alphabetical lines; maybe each ward had fewer people there, I don’t know…

    All this makes me wonder why we don’t have a federal law that sets out how to vote. Each state making its own laws seems like a good way for this kind of shit to happen. I can see why it would be no big deal for each state to have its own traffic laws; in Virginia, some left turn lanes have green, yellow and red arrows, but in Pennsylvania, left-turn lanes have only green and yellow arrows, and the left turn lane shares a full red light with the other lanes. Who cares about shit like that? But election laws have effects that echo down the years. Is anybody working on this anywhere?

  64. 64
    Ruckus says:

    @Anatoliĭ Lъudьvigovich Bzyp (formerly Horrendo Slapp, Jimperson Zibb, Duncan Dönitz, Otto Graf von Pfmidtnöchtler-Pízsmőgy, Mumphrey, et al.):


    How can a state get to fuck over the people it doesn’t want voting if you take that out of their hands?

  65. 65
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Xantar: You really want to know? A 24 vote win by a Republican candidate, which the counted provisionals overturned. Simple as that.

    I’m not kidding. I voted in that race, followed the litigation closely. I know all of the players professionally, and a couple personally as well. The GOP chair is of the kind currently in vogue, and called the Democratic candidate (now sitting judge) “unAmerican” for pursuing the legal action. Seriously. This is the kind of insane partisanship to which the electoral process has devolved.

  66. 66
    Kay says:


    He told me once in that class, spitting mad, that I was “the kind of person who tacks flyers on telephone poles”. That was actually disarming, because I think it’s hysterical, both to be mad about flyers on telephone poles, and to accuse someone of something so weirdly specific. I think of flyers on telephone poles as “lost dog”.

  67. 67

    @This joke is past its expiration date:

    I don’t understand the “right polling place, wrong precinct” thing. If you’re at the right polling place, wouldn’t you be in the right precinct already?

    Not necessarily. Some places have multiple precincts in a single polling place. They may actually be voting on different issues or candidates. In California, at least, the order of the candidates on the ballot is randomized differently in every precinct, so your vote won’t be counted correctly if it’s put in the wrong ballot box.

  68. 68
    Kay says:

    @Anatoliĭ Lъudьvigovich Bzyp (formerly Horrendo Slapp, Jimperson Zibb, Duncan Dönitz, Otto Graf von Pfmidtnöchtler-Pízsmőgy, Mumphrey, et al.):

    They combine precincts under one roof: the polling place. It’s tables. One walks in and either asks or is directed to a precinct table. The problem has gotten worse with early vote, because they have fewer voters on election day, so more consolidation. They also just screw with people. My precinct went from a name and a number to a letter, for no reason.

  69. 69
    JPL says:

    @catclub: The Guardian has been doing a great job following this story.

    Kay, Thanks for keeping us informed.

  70. 70


    I can see that people would say that, but the thing about elections is that they have federal consequences. If yield laws aren’t the same in Nevada as they are here, it’s nothing to me. But if election laws are, that could effect who has the reins in the House or Senate, or who wins the presidency, and that does affect me. Mind you, I’m not arguing with you; I know you aren’t saying states’ rights is a good argument. I’m arguing against the idiots who think it is a good argument.

    @Roger Moore:

    1: That joke will never be stale. Ridiculous names will always be funny; just ask Charles Dickens.
    2: That seems nuts to me. Just begging for things to go wrong, or it seems like that to me, anyway.


    I’d never heard of that. I guess that I should think myself lucky.

  71. 71
    Ruckus says:

    @Anatoliĭ Lъudьvigovich Bzyp (formerly Horrendo Slapp, Jimperson Zibb, Duncan Dönitz, Otto Graf von Pfmidtnöchtler-Pízsmőgy, Mumphrey, et al.):
    You are absolutely correct and I agree that any election with one of the what is it 536 federally elected officials should be a federally run election. We only do that every 2 years and even though a congressperson may not represent me, most everything they do has an effect on me. I’d like to think that at least their election was above board, even if they are not. As Kay has pointed out a lot of the poll workers just want a fair election. I can’t say that about all the people in the election process. See SoS OH for example.

  72. 72
    burnspbesq says:

    @Mark S.:

    Seriously, there was some douchebag lawyer arguing the other side?

    You know what? Fuck you.

    How many time does it have to be explained to morons like you that (a) litigants are entitled to representation, (b) it’s a job, (c) the fact that a lawyer represents a client in litigation, and takes positions on behalf of that client does not constitute a personal endorsement of the client or the position by the lawyer?

    By your logic, a truck driver endorses, and should be held responsible for the quality of, the contents of his truck.

    Get a motherfucking clue.

  73. 73
    burnspbesq says:


    Where I live now, the polling place is in one of the complex’s buildings and we have something like 5 Election Districts in the same room.

    Lefrak City? That place looks big enough to be its own Congressional district.

  74. 74

    @hep kitty:

    Ok, thanks for confirming for me that I am, indeed, still hallucinating.

    All part of the service.

  75. 75
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @burnspbesq: Let’s be fair. The attorneys working for the Ohio AG are there because it is a state law and they are supposed to defend it. The lawyers from big time GOP firms are there because they want to be douchebags. There is a difference.

  76. 76
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Zactly, and thanks for pointing that out.

  77. 77
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: For example, I know a lawyer, now a muni judge, in Ohio who took a short term position with a prosecutor’s office so that he could work on a death penalty case. He wanted the experience and the resume bullet of getting someone sentenced to death. You cannot convince me that he is not a douchbag.

  78. 78
    Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

    If the Presidential election in Ohio is close, it will come down to provisional ballots.

    Are the provisional ballots counted before or after the results from Diebold’s machines are announced?

  79. 79
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    Kay: do you have any sense of the distribution of multi-precinct locations?

    I know that early voting locations are set up to handle pretty much everything within a county, but I was wondering whether urban locations were more likely to have locations for multiple precincts on election day, or whether there’s no real bias one way or the other.

    (I’m another person who thinks federal elections should be conducted under federal rules, but mainly think that US elections in general should be conducted under rules that aren’t a complete fucking embarrassment.)

  80. 80
    cckids says:

    @Roger Moore:

    I think one good reason for not having it in schools is that for a big part of the day the schools are full of students, and having voters go through is disruptive.

    You’ve also got (in elementary schools) the security problem of lots of adults roaming around, and lots of smallish kids. Plus, at least here in NV, they don’t tend to have a large room they aren’t using – the cafeteria (or “multi-purpose room”) is the biggest, and isn’t anywhere near big enough. Especially if there are lines.

    Since I’ve lived here, I’ve voted in middle schools and/or community centers-places with big basketball courts, etc. It works well.

    As for security, who’d want to kidnap a middle schooler? Most obnoxious age, hands-down. /snark off.

  81. 81
    lethargytartare says:


    also from Illinois (Waukegan) used to vote in my grade school, moved and voted in a park district building, moved again and voting at another grade school.

    I think they try to put the polling place within reasonable walking distance for everyone in the precinct(s) represented at the polling place.

    Schools might not work so good for more rural areas, or even within a town like Waukegan, where some of the sprawl has homes miles from the nearest school.

  82. 82
    Origuy says:

    @Roger Moore: Ok, that makes sense. I only know about the Bay Area, which has lots of little school districts. There’s one in Menlo Park that is so small that San Mateo County is not going to have a polling place for them. It’s in the city, but the school district is Ravenswood, which is mostly in East Palo Alto. Since they have fewer than 250 registered voters, the county is going to force them to vote by mail.

  83. 83
    r€nato says:

    I work the polls in my state.

    Provisional ballots are rather difficult for poll workers to handle. Here’s why:

    The procedure is, the poll workers determine that a voter needs to vote provisional and they send him down to the end of the table where a single poll worker is handling provisionals. Voter gets a ballot, votes it, then has to bring it back to the poll worker handling provisionals.

    A form has to be filled out – it’s like a receipt. The cover page of this form is filled with tiny, fine print detailing the rules regarding provisional ballots. I am nearing 50 and I have to squint to read it. Some voters who vote provisional really don’t need to follow up, unless they want to. (It’s always a good idea to do so) These are usually voters who were sent an early ballot but did not submit it and instead have come in to vote in person. Requiring these voters to vote provisional prevents someone from voting twice; once by early ballot and again in person.

    If you do not have proper voter ID, then you vote provisional and these voters must follow up with the county within a certain time period, by going down to the county elections office, to show the proper ID in order for their vote to be counted. The period is different depending on the type of election. A federal election requires, I think, 7 days while a state election requires 5 days. Something like that. I am not sure if the rules specify if those are business days or calendar days. I am still not clear what exactly is a federal election and what is a state election. If there is even a single federal office on the ballot, does that make it a federal election? I think so but not 100% positive.

    Oh, did i mention that in my county, the elections office where one must go to show proper ID can be as far as 50 miles away?

    As the inspector (I am in charge of the polling place), it’s my responsibility to oversee the poll workers and one of those duties is to make sure that the provisional ballot form is filled out correctly in all respects. Any omissions or mistakes and the ballot is not counted. As if I don’t have enough to do on a busy election day.

    And in case I forgot to mention, this is a lot of work for one poll worker to stay on top of. Multiply all this paperwork by how many additional provisional ballots are required to be voted by voter ID laws = a mess designed on purpose to create the possibility of uncounted votes.

    If we are going to have voter ID laws, then we should have federal regulations which streamline the provisional ballot procedures.

    I will be sure to report back to you all after the election next month. I will have some tales to tell, I’m sure.

  84. 84

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    Lawyers are supposed to be zealous advocates for their clients, and that’s a lot easier when you believe in the position you’re defending. We know the Ohio AG is a Republican douchebag who supports these laws to the hilt; I have no trouble believing that the people from his office who are doing the job in court see eye to eye with him on the issue.

  85. 85
    r€nato says:

    I forgot to mention, many poll workers do not really understand the ins and outs of provisional voting. After all, we only do this twice a year every two years. The odds of a poll worker – however well-meaning and diligent – correctly explaining to a voter what they must do to ensure their provisional ballot is counted, are really not that good.

  86. 86
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Roger Moore: The majority of people working at the Ohio AG office outside of management positions are career government attorneys. The office is far too big to have major turnover everytime the office changes hands.

  87. 87
    Ruckus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    I like how in burnsys world there are no douchebag lawyers. They all have the sanctity of the law foremost in mind.

  88. 88
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    Speaking of douchebags, in Ohio’s reddest county (lacking the D base of city of Cincinnati that deprives Hamilton County of the title), a truckload of manurewas left outside the entrance to the Warren County Democratic party HQ.

  89. 89
    cintibud says:

    @Kay: I wonder if my voting place wasn’t the place where all the provisional ballots were cast in that disputed judicial election in 2010. I have been voting at the same location for over 20 years, always at the same table. Just walk in the door, continue straight to the table and give them my name. However, in 2010, they couldn’t find my name. I was shocked, but then the poll worker noticed I should be at the table at the other side of the room. The position of the tables for the different precincts had been changed after 20 some years!

    Wonder if some folks got a less helpful poll worker, causing them to have to cast provisional ballots.

  90. 90
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Ruckus: One does get a bit sensitive when people automatically assume that one agrees with everything one’s client does or says. See Roger Moore’s comment above.

  91. 91
    kay says:


    I was a poll worker, and I know it’s a grind, but I would be thrilled if we could get them to stop giving people who should get a regular ballot a provisional ballot.
    It’s always the GOP pollworkers. They seem to think it’s “safer”. I say LAST RESORT, not DEFAULT.
    Follow ALL the rules, not just the punishing, exclusionary rules! Use the good rules too!

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  93. 93
    Ruckus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    Oh I get that. But I have known quite a few lawyers in my years and a number of them have been douchebags. Not all of them or even a majority for sure but the attitude that there are no douchebag lawyers is laughable. Which I believe was your comment above. It’s like the thin gray line (you know, like the not so thin blue line cops have).

  94. 94

    I’ve never understood the Bay Area practice of having separate districts for primary and secondary schools; it seems like asking for unnecessary confusion and bureaucracy.

  95. 95
    r€nato says:

    @kay: In my polling place, we won’t be giving provisional ballots unless absolutely required to.

    We’re also going to follow voter ID laws TO. THE. LETTER. I don’t give a shit if someone gets pissy with me over it. In fact, I’ll be thrilled if they do. Only when middle-class/upper-class white voters realize these laws affect them as well as those ‘other’ people, will they realize how offensive they are to the spirit of democracy and the right to vote.

    We had one case where all a woman had with her was her checks with her address printed on it. The other poll workers wanted to accept it. I said, “no, sorry, that’s not on the list of acceptable voter IDs.” She grumbled but went to her car and got her ID.

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    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Ruckus: We have pinstriped suits for a reason, you know.

  97. 97
    Ruckus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    That could be taken several ways. But you knew that.

  98. 98
    gelfling545 says:

    @Roger Moore: It is disruptive (a little). My school was a polling place for all the years I taught there. It is also instructive (a lot)for the kids to see their elders coming to vote & the teachers would mostly all take the time to talk about why they were there and why it was important for everyone to vote so I rather liked it.

  99. 99

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    The majority of people working at the Ohio AG office outside of management positions are career government attorneys.

    If you’re going to pick career staff members to defend a position, it makes sense to find the ones who agree with the position they’re defending, rather than just ones who are doing it because it’s in the job description. That’s doubly true if it’s a really important case, so you’re in a position to pick and choose and organize the rest of your caseload around it. I have no reason to doubt that the AG sees the case that way and is putting every ounce of effort behind it he can.

  100. 100
    kay says:


    I think the postal service should handle elections. It makes so much sense! They handle a very similiar process and they’re everywhere. They do passports and selective service, too, so obviously we trust them. I’ve done both poll working and mail handling and that’s a good “fit”

    With the decline in first class mail, they need a new function. I want Sherrod Brown to introduce my idea, but he may think I’m a crackpot :)

  101. 101
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Roger Moore: Whatever. Move the goalposts if you want.

  102. 102
    burnspbesq says:


    but the attitude that there are no douchebag lawyers

    I didn’t say that, and I don’t think that I said anything from which you could reasonably infer that I believe it. What I actually said is that it is fallacious to identify a lawyer with his clients or the positions he takes on their behalf.

    If you prefer knocking down strawmen to actually engaging on substance, go for it.

  103. 103
    Ruckus says:

    As you may have gathered I am not a lawyer. But a simple reading of your comment (How many times…) along with a number of those older comments could easily lead one to make that assumption. As a lawyer of your stature, especially one who comments about the law and lawyers as much and in the manner that you do I would think you could make better and more concise arguments about your point that would expel all doubt about your position rather than ones that leave room for interpretation.

  104. 104
    sab says:

    I already early voted in Ohio. This year it was at the Board of Elections office downtown. Lots of old people with canes and walkers, and not a chair in sight.

    Weirdly, my precinct is split between two different Congressional districts. One Congress-critter is based out of Mayfield Heights up on Lake Erie east of Cleveland. The other one is based out of Youngstown on the Pennsylvania border. Yet both are representing my precinct, which is forty miles away from either. I like both of them, but they aren’t exactly familiar with my city’s issues. Talk about micromanaging the gerrymanders.

  105. 105
    Zach says:

    “If the Presidential election in Ohio is close, it will come down to provisional ballots.”

    Democrats in 2001/2 were responsible for more effective voter suppression than Republicans in the past few years by sharing at least half the blame for post-Bush/Gore voting “reform” … I’ve been forced to vote provisional because I went to the wrong table and didn’t know what was going on till my electronic card had been swiped. Thanks to the last round of attempts to stop non-existant voter fraud, this meant I couldn’t go to the correct table once the computer said I was at the wrong one. The provisional ballot only included city-wide races and not district-level races (primary election). Turned out to be a blowout in the race I cared about, but this stuff matters.

    The most insane bit of the (ironically titled) Help America Vote Act is that all votes cast after poll-closing time must be provisional votes. Apparently, this is in case a judge orders polls to stay open and that ruling is later reversed? As far as I know, this has never happened anywhere. Of course, provisional ballots take *much* longer, making the problems of long lines when polls close worse. And, of course, long lines at poll-closing time and multiple-precinct voting locations are almost always in Democratic-leaning precincts. I really can’t believe the left was all nuts about computerized voting (which is unnecessary and also disproportionately screws Democrats, but the Diebold conspiracy theories were dumb) and didn’t notice the Trojan horse of provisional ballots.

  106. 106
    Palli says:

    @feebog: In 2008, I was a poll watcher in Lorain County OH at a church location with 5 precincts in one large room- but not really large enough..

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