Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Ohio and provisional votes


What are provisional ballots?

It's a backup ballot offered to a voter whose name does not figure on rolls when he comes to vote. In other words, a provisional ballot is cast by a voter who has shifted his residence, or whose name is not on the voters' list or who was previously deemed ineligible to vote but on election day has become eligible.

In Ohio the provisonal votes have become crucial since Democrats say Bush's lead is far less than the number of provisional votes. Kerry supporters say there are more than 2,50,000 provisional votes whereas Bush's lead is only 1,25,000.

Though the option of provisional votes was made through a law passed by the Congress in 2002 (Help America Vote Act), it has not been made clear how these votes should be counted.

Rules for provisional ballots vary from state to state.

Ohio is among the states where the law is the strictest. It has a Republican government and according to rules framed by it, provisional ballots cast outside the voter's current precinct (sub-division of a town or city) is not valid. According to rules, provisional ballots are to be issued only to voters who, after giving their address, are in the correct precinct, but whose name is missing from the voters list.

A lower-court struck this directive down, but on October 23, a federal appeals court upheld the administration's rule. Democrats had decided not to appeal then.

According to Ohio laws, the state's provisional votes cannot be counted and added to the electoral vote count until 11 days after the election. The gap is for election officials to verify voters' eligibility.

Now in Ohio, many voters, who were issued provisional ballots and voted, may end up with their votes not counted, if on verification their addresses didn't match with the precinct they voted in.

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