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Ohio court upholds order to count ballots from misdirected voters

October 11, 2012|By David G. Savage
  • A three-judge panel in Ohio said it is unfair and unconstitutional to penalize a voter because of a mistake by a poll worker.
A three-judge panel in Ohio said it is unfair and unconstitutional to penalize… (Al Behrman / Associated…)

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court in Ohio upheld a judge’s order requiring the state to count the thousands of ballots from voters who go to the right polling place but are sent to the wrong table for a different precinct.

Four years ago, more than 14,000 ballots in Ohio were not counted on the grounds they were cast in the wrong precinct. The issue arises often in Ohio’s cities because a single polling place often serves several precincts.

But the three-judge panel said Thursday it is unfair and unconstitutional to penalize a voter because of a mistake by a poll worker. Otherwise, “the state 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,” said the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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The decision is a victory for the Ohio Democratic Party, which had sued to challenge the state’s refusal to count all ballots that were filed in the wrong precinct. 

In August, a federal judge ruled this policy of rejecting otherwise valid votes were unconstitutional. Ohio’s Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine, a Republican, appealed the order to the 6thCircuit, based in Cincinnati.

But the appeals court affirmed that decision.   

The state could appeal the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. Earlier this week, the Ohio secretary of state asked the high court to reverse a decision in a separate case that requires the polling places to be open on the weekend before the Nov. 6 election.

The justices have taken no action on that appeal.

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david.savage@latimes.com

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