Poll Workers Misinterpret Voter ID Requirement

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Voting machine problems and the crashing of the Franklin County phone system marked Election 2006 in Columbus. But a larger problem seems to be poll workers requiring some voters to cast provisional ballots.

Misinformed poll workers who don’t understand the state’s new voter identification requirements seem partly responsible for the large number of provisional ballots. Jennifer Scullion works for the Election Protection program, a group that is monitoring voting problems in Ohio.

“When a voter arrives at the polls, they’re allowed to use their driver’s license even if the license has an old address on it,” Scullion says. “However some of the poll workers in various polling locations are having the voters vote a provisional ballot. And that is not correct.”

Several callers to WOSU’s Open Line this morning said they were required to cast provisional ballots. A man who identified himself as Jason said officials later could not explain why he was required to do so.

“I did the provisional ballot and then went down to the board of elections and they looked me up on the computer and they said there was nothing wrong with my status. And they said there was no reason I should have had to file a provisional ballot, and there were no inconsistencies with my registration.”

Some elections observers believe the requirement to cast a provisional ballot may further discourage voter participation. But Ohio State University law professor and elections expert Ned Foley says voting provisionally may actually be a safeguard.

“Had we been in Florida in 2000 before the Help America Vote Act required provisional ballots you would have been turned away unable to vote at all and would have been categorically disenfranchised,” Foley said.

Elections officials have 10 days to verify voter information and tally those ballots results.

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