As Ohio Counts, So Waits the Nation
I know some here don’t like National Review, but I’d ask you to give John Fund a chance. His article is a very good overview of what may happen if provisional and late-arriving absentee ballots come into play in Ohio:
Cincinnati, Ohio — If the presidential election goes into ‘overtime’ — if no winner is known on Wednesday morning after the election — the culprits may be procrastinating absentee voters in Ohio. If it goes on beyond that with no decision, it may be due to lawyers from both parties’ fighting trench warfare over individual ballots in a bloody recount. It could easily happen in other states, but the danger of an ‘overtime’ election is perhaps greatest in Ohio.
This year for the first time, Ohio officials mailed every registered voter in the state an application for an absentee ballot. A total of 1.3 million applications flooded in, and to date some 1.1 million, or 85 percent, have been returned. But many of the rest won’t be mailed before the election. So what if the voters who failed to send in their absentee ballots show up at their polling places on Tuesday asking to vote?
They will be allowed to, but only by provisional ballot in order to make sure they don’t vote twice.
Other people will have to cast provisional ballots — those who have changed their names or moved but not sent in a change of address, or those who have registered just prior to the deadline this year but whose names don’t show up on local precinct lists. There will also be people trying to vote who aren’t eligible — because they didn’t register in time or don’t have even a non-photo form of ID. By law, none of those provisional ballots can be opened and counted for ten days — until November 17. Voters have those ten days to contact their local election board to provide additional information to get their vote counted. In addition to provisional ballots, some 20,000 or more absentee votes that arrive after Election Day will remain uncounted for ten days.
‘Ohio could be close enough that those provisional and other ballots will matter,’ says Tom Burke, the chairman of the Board of Elections in Hamilton County, which contain’s Cincinnati. In 2008, over 207,000 such ballots were cast. Ohio has often been close in presidential contests. Jimmy Carter won the state by only 11,000 votes out of 4.1 million cast in 1976, and in 2004 George W. Bush’s margin of victory was only 119,000. Lawyers for John Kerry, Bush’s opponent, have told me they planned to go to court in Ohio if the margin had been less than 50,000 votes. Kerry did not concede the state — and the presidency — until 11 a.m. on the Wednesday after the election.
A fight over ballots is guaranteed to ensue this year in Ohio if the margin of victory is within one-half of one percentage point of votes cast — or about 25,000 votes. An automatic recount kicks in at that point. Legal challenges could prevent it from beginning until early December. That’s a problem given that December 11 is the deadline by which Congress is required to honor a state’s results. If Ohio misses that deadline, it will have to find some way to deliver its results by December 17, when the Electoral College is scheduled to meet.
The article goes on to discuss the difficulties and controversies experienced in Washington State in 2004. But while it is critical of some the things done there, this isn’t a hit piece or a “Rah-Rah GOP!” piece. Please do read the whole thing then please comment and tell me what you think.