The 2012 election season has been a legal and emotional rollercoaster in Ohio. First, there was the court battle over early voting. Then, there was debate over how -- or if -- faulty ballots should be counted.
This week, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals enjoined a district court's order requiring the state to count provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct or polling location, The Associated Press reports.
Ohio requires provisional ballots to be cast in the correct precinct and with a completed voter affirmation. Some Ohio polling places serve voters from several precincts, but the law does not make an exception wrong-precinct and deficient-affirmation ballots caused by poll-worker error. Last month, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said the state couldn't do that, affirming a district court ruling that Ohio can't simply cast off the nonconforming votes.
In that opinion, the appellate court noted that a district court order from August did not require the counting of wrong-place/wrong-precinct ballots, but the court expressed no view on whether the refusal to count such ballots imposed an unconstitutional burden on voters. On October 17, voting rights advocates filed a renewed motion for a preliminary injunction in the district court that would mandate the counting of wrong place/wrong precinct ballots, reiterating a request made in their original motion for a preliminary injunction that was not included in the August order.
The district court granted the renewed motion on October 27 after a hearing. The state unsuccessfully moved for a stay of the preliminary injunction during the hearing, prompting an emergency appeal to the Sixth Circuit.
The Sixth Circuit stayed the district court's wrong place/wrong precinct injunction, noting that Ohio demonstrated a high likelihood of success on their appeal of the October 27 injunction, as well as irreparable harm to Ohio absent a stay, irreparable harm to others if the stay is granted, and the public interest in granting the stay.
Barring further court action, that means that an Ohio voter must vote at the correct poll for his vote to count.
- SEIU, et al. v. Jon Husted, et al. (Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals)
- Counties Sue on Voting Rights Act (FindLaw's DC Circuit Blog)
- Northeast Ohio Coalition For Homeless v. Jon Husted (Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals)
- Is 'Vote Satan' Theft a Sign of Hate Crime? (FindLaw's Legally Weird)