By filing a lawsuit
alleging systemic voter registration fraud, Republicans in north suburban Lake County are hoping to exclude thousands of new voters
from the Election Day count. The GOP is asking
the circuit court to isolate 5,000 allegedly
By filing a lawsuit alleging systemic voter registration fraud, Republicans in north suburban Lake County are hoping to exclude thousands of new voters from the Election Day count. The GOP is asking the circuit court to isolate 5,000 allegedly "compromised" registrations submitted by an employee of SEIU Illinois (which sponsors this website). Under their plan, individuals in this batch of forms would be issued provisional ballots, which are only counted after the clerk has verified that the underlying registrations are valid. If that sounds like an adequate compromise, Ohio's experience with provisional ballots should give you pause.
In an article yesterday, The New York Times' Ian Urbina reported how Ohio was one of a small minority of states that increased the percentage of provisional ballots issued to voters in 2004 and 2006. That total is expected to jump again Tuesday, because "many newly registered voters may bring the wrong form of identification to the polls, failing to comply with the state’s new voter law that requires all voters to show government-issued identification or an approved document with a voter’s name and address." If the presidential race is close in the state, problems will inevitably ensue.
But the most likely source of litigation is the state’s heavy use of provisional ballots, which are issued when a voter’s identity or registration cannot immediately be verified or when polls stay open late. Ohio has a history of requiring large numbers of voters to use these ballots, which are easy to disqualify and are not counted until after the election.
“Provisional ballots are really the Achilles’ heel of our electoral process, because in a close race that is the pressure point lawyers use to try to undo the results,” said Edward B. Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University who is one of the nation’s foremost experts on voting litigation. “The larger the number of provisional ballots cast in a state, the more vulnerable the Achilles’ heel, and Ohio has for a couple of elections used more of these ballots than most any other state.”
In a February op-ed, Foley and Tova Wang of the Century Foundation expound on this fear, noting that "state laws are incredibly vague and incomplete with regard to casting and counting provisional ballots." For a variety of reasons (PDF) including registration list errors, address changes, and a lack of provisional ballots at polling places -- none of which are related to "voter fraud" -- only 79.5 percent of the provisional ballots issued in 2006 were actually counted.
Ohio isn't the only state that provides broader context for the effort in Lake County. Across the country, Republican officials have tried (with limited success) to convince the courts to address vague suspicions of voter fraud by forcing greater use of provisional ballots.
- In Colorado, the Republican Secretary of State garnered a partial win after he cut a deal to add 14,000 purged voters back on the rolls on the condition they filed provisional ballots.
- A frivolous GOP lawsuit against ACORN in Pennsylvania would require the state to provide additional provisional ballots in the counties ACORN targeted.
- In Nevada, the Secretary of State denied a GOP request to require voters to cast provisional ballots if they fixed mistakes in their voting information at the polls.
Ensuring the integrity of the election process is important. But the GOP's last-minute fear-mongering about "voter fraud" -- from the Southwest to the Northeast to Illinois' own Lake County -- is clearly more about gaming the system than fixing it.
Image used under a Creative Commons license by Flickr user joebeone.