I am a veteran of the hanging chad debacle in South Florida in the Presidential election of 2000. To this day, I wonder whether my ballot is one that was thrown out because of an incomplete separation of the chad. It was that experience that taught me the importance of voting and how important every vote is.
I was shocked to learn last week from the Cincinnati Enquirer (“Lawsuit: Ballots discarded for minor errors in Ohio,” August 4, 2016 print edition) that Ohio is appealing a federal decision that favored voting rights advocates. There were two parts of this matter that I found disturbing.
First, each county gets to decide which ballots are discarded as illegitimate. Ballots can be deemed illegitimate if there is an issue with the informational fields, such as date of birth or address. In 2014, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, 2,800 ballots were deemed illegitimate and thrown out. In close races, that is enough to change the outcome of an election. In some Ohio counties, if a voter signs his or her name rather than prints it, the ballot can be thrown out. Forget to check the absentee ballot box? Missing a zip code or one number of your zip code? Depending where you live, your vote could be tossed out. There is no course teaching people how to complete a ballot. In addition, the manner of voting has changed over the years, and it is quite easy for anyone, especially younger and older voters, to make a small mistake.
Second, why is the state of Ohio wasting money on appealing a federal court decision that existing Ohio law was unconstitutional? The federal ruling is very consistent with a number of federal voter rights rulings and it seems unlikely that the State of Ohio will win on appeal. Federal courts have ruled that many of these laws passed to prevent voter fraud are unnecessary and have a differential (and therefore unlawful) impact on non-Whites, the elderly, disabled, and lower-income citizens.
Please vote in November. It is important that your voice is heard and your vote counted. If you live in Ohio, please make sure to verify that your information is correct and complete so your vote will count. It is Summer 2016 and that is the view from here.