Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted may get his wish of disenfranchisement after all. A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday placed a stay on a lower court ruling that would allow voter disenfranchisement based on poll worker error.
The panel, all appointed by either Bush 41 or Bush 43, ruled that Ohio may disallow ballots where the voter used the wrong precinct to vote. This is true even if the poll worker directed the voter to the wrong precinct. Otherwise, the opinion says, this would “absolve voters of all responsibility for voting in the correct precinct.”
To understand this ruling better, you need to understand that in Ohio, as in other states, voters in different precincts often cast their ballot at the same polling place. This is especially true in, you guessed it, the urban areas of the state. So a voter could arrive at the correct polling place and simply get assigned the “wrong precinct” ballot by a poll worker. This “wrong precinct” ballot may be identical to the “right precinct” ballot; it could be an adjacent precinct where all the districts are the same, and therefore the candidates on the ballot as well. There may not even be a particularly visible way of a voter knowing that they voted in the “wrong” precinct. But this ruling allows for the possibility that they would have to confirm their precinct with the poll worker, which essentially means they would have to check the work of the poll worker, with their ballot against what they wrote down in the polling book. And this poll worker error happens more often than you think; with these rules in place, Ohio threw out tens of thousands of ballots in previous elections.
How this is supposed to be the responsibility of the individual voter is beyond me. There’s obviously a capacity for poll worker error in a multi-precinct polling place. For the most part it has no bearing on the voter’s ballot. What is the harm here? Why should those votes not count? The obvious answer is because this happens in higher-propensity Democratic districts.
This isn’t the end of the story: the Sixth Circuit merely stayed the ruling of the lower court. The appeal still must be heard. But we are five days out from the election.