It’s rare we get to write a blog headline as ridiculous as this, and we certainly wish this one was a joke, but unfortunately it’s all too true. Last month, Ohio election officials referred a group of absentee voters to the local prosecutor’s offices claiming they committed “voter fraud” by requesting an absentee ballot and then voting a provisional ballot in the same election. What the election officials, who include Secretary of State John Husted, failed to note is that this activity is 100% legal under Ohio law.
Ohio’s absentee voting rules allow voters who have requested an absentee ballot to vote a provisional ballot on Election Day if they believe that their absentee ballot was not received for any reason. The over 100 voters from Franklin and Hamilton County (where Columbus and Cincinnati are located respectively) whose votes have been called into question were simply doing what poll workers instructed them to when they came to the polls on Election Day.
Ohio Board of Elections Chairman Tim Burke did not mince words when asked about the decision, saying, “Why the hell do the prosecutor and the secretary of state think they have to prosecute these people for doing what the law says? I think this is an effort to intimidate voters.”
The League of Women Voters of Ohio agrees with Burke. Yesterday, the group sent an open letter to the election officials involved in the case which stated, “We are deeply disturbed by recent actions taken in
Hamilton and Franklin Counties, and perhaps others, referring to local prosecutors voters who obeyed the law and sought to exercise their right to vote. The only "wrong" committed by these voters was requesting an absentee ballot and then casting a provisional ballot at the polls on Election Day.
This activity is perfectly legal, and referring these cases to the prosecutor sends a dangerous and chilling message not only to Ohio voters but also to poll workers.” The letter even cites the specific language in Ohio law which allows for these so-called “double-votes.”
Fair Elections Legal Network joins with the League and fellow Ohio election advocates, ProgressOhio, in their condemnation of this decision. Voters should be encouraged to vote and do everything to ensure their votes are counted, not threatened by the state for following the law. It is our sincere hope that these cases will be thrown out. Ohio election officials should be focused on expanding access to voting and improving the efficiency of their systems, not on frivolous legal actions. Ohio taxpayers’ dollars and time should not be wasted on prosecuting the lawful.