Last Minute Directive by Ohio's Jon Husted Could See Legal Votes Discarded & Swing the Election

Photo: Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

It appears that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, is on a mission to suppress Ohio voters. During the weeks leading up to Election Day, Husted has tried everything he can come up with, even defying court orders, in order to make sure that fewer people can vote early, and now get their vote counted. A last minute directive issued by Husted could now invalidate many legal provisional ballots.

Widely viewed as the most critical state for both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney's presidential campaigns, Ohio could swing the entire election if the 11th hour mandate stands.

Issued on Friday, the directive lays out the requirements for submitting a provisional ballot. The directive includes a form that puts the burden on the voter to correctly record the form of ID provided to election officials, and Husted instructed election officials not to count ballots if the form is not filled out correctly by a voter.

Voting rights advocates filed a lawsuit late Friday, stating that this is "contrary to a court decision on provisional ballots a week ago and contrary to statements made by attorneys for Husted at an Oct. 24 court hearing."

Husted directive also appears to be in violation of Ohio law. The lawsuit states:

Ohio Rev. Code § 3505.181(B)(6) provides that, once a voter casting a provisional ballot proffers identification, “the appropriate local election official shall record the type of identification provided, the social security number information, the fact that the affirmation was executed, or the fact that the individual declined to execute such an affirmation and include that information with the transmission of the ballot . . . .”

Ohio law also “ensures that any questions regarding a voter’s identification are resolved on the spot or, consistent with due process, the voter is informed that he or she needs to provide additional information to the board of elections. This protects the integrity of the voting process, and provides a reasonable opportunity to resolve deficiencies.”

Husted's last minute directive changes this and puts the burden on the voter, which greatly increases the chances that legal provisional ballots will be discarded.

The court has given Husted until Monday to respond to the lawsuit, and said that it would resolve the dispute before provisional ballots are counted on November 17.