Ohio: Reports of Provisional Ballots "Handed Out Like Candy"
This is not the post I wanted to write about Election Day. I wanted to write about the glorious autumn day it is in Washington, D.C. I wanted to write about how I'm going to be in an NPR war room with 30 other amazing political junkies and social media devotees tonight to cover the returns.
Nov. 6, 2012 - Cincinnati, Ohio, USA - A woman sits filling out her election ballot inside of the First Baptist Church of Dent. Two little girls stand by her side playing, as other voters fill out their ballots. (Credit Image: © Ernest Coleman/ZUMAPRESS.com)
But no -- I have to be a Twitter addict and look every other minute at the excellent Twitter list, Ohio Hacks and Flacks, which started producing tweets like these within the last hour or so:
Carrie Davis w/ League of Women Voters says there've been problems w/ ballot scanners in Summit & Cuyahoga counties. Extra machines on way— Jo Ingles (@joingles) November 6, 2012
Carrie Davis w/ League of Women Voters says provisional ballots are being handed out every time there's a question. #ohel— Jo Ingles (@joingles) November 6, 2012
Our reporters hearing of a deluge of voting problems in Cleveland. People purged from rolls and provisionals "being handed out like candy."— Henry J. Gomez (@HenryJGomez) November 6, 2012
And finally, even more ominous, from Henry, in response to Jonathan Gormley (previously a political director at the Ohio Republican Party), who asked if this is one voting location or several:
@jonathangormley We're looking into it, but reports of steady voters showing up and being told they're not registered.— Henry J. Gomez (@HenryJGomez) November 6, 2012
So now what's up? Me. That's who. I should be napping right now -- so I can be on top of my game tonight, when I'll be juggling multiple online platforms and metrics, and hopefully good news.
Instead, I'm alternately worried, angry and exasperated. Why must Ohio be like this? In fact, must any state -- Florida being another example -- be like this? (Have you heard about how a Republican candidate for the Texas congressional district had to vote provisionally because his son's absentee ballot was posted to his dad's name? They're separated by a "Sr.," so they wouldn't let the dad -- the candidate -- vote except provisionally.)
Personally, I don't think so. It is the choices made by individuals who could make better choices but instead, we have this horrific mishmosh of laws and directives up through the final hours of Election Day.
Let me tell you three stories:
1. A resident in my city emailed me to say that her husband went to the polls at 6 a.m., concerned for the lines, and was able to vote -- as the polls opened at 6:30 a.m. When she went later, she too went in, voted, no problem.
2. On the other hand, my son, who is a freshman in college, called me at 10:45 last night because he and a friend of his thought I might be able to help the friend. Seems the friend is a voter in New York state who is in college in Ohio. The friend requested and received an absentee mail-in ballot, but he threw away the envelope into which the ballot (already in its own envelope) would be placed for mailing to his home county's board of elections. They wanted to know if there was anyway he could cast a vote that would count -- somewhere, anywhere. The answer sadly was and is no. The postmark deadline for his New York ballot was November 5, so that wasn't going to happen. Now, if he wanted to try and vote as an Ohioan, you might think he could do that (as the boys had hoped) but the answer to that is also no. Every state is a bit different on this.
3. The receptionist at my hotel is Mexican (I didn't ask; she told me when she told me this following story). She said she can't wait until she is an American, so she can vote. She told me a story about how her mother and others, in Mexico, must combat a system in which people literally buy votes -- they give out gift cards for stores or movies, in exchange for the voter completing the ballot a certain way. But then, guess what? The gift cards turn out to be invalid and unusable. Let's not even get started in all the ways that that is problematic, from the ground up through the 30,000-foot level.
So, America: What's it gonna be? Should we FEMA-ize elections -- bring them to the national level, and get some collaboration and coordination going? I've been known to look down upon the Ohio Secretary of State for constantly pushing uniformity, as if it is the only standard by which to judge voting laws. I believe that uniformity in a law doesn't mean that in its application, it will come close to fulfilling the goals it's intended to fulfill, such as voting access.
And yet seriously, how many of you reading this have thought to yourself, is this the best we can do? Why can some states seem to do it so much better -- all by mail, or all electronically, or just with less drama?
Sigh. Okay: Ohio. Who's it gonna be? I'm calling it for Obama, based on the endurance of the grip he's had on it and the absolutely contemptible auto industry ads Romney has run. If nothing else, those ads demonstrate a total misunderstanding of this state and the people in it.
And last but not least, the senior Ohio U.S. Senator, Sherrod Brown, will retain his seat by a very safe margin. I'm not sure whether Betty Sutton beats Jim Renacci in one of the few incumbent versus incumbent races resulting from redistricting but I'd put my money on Betty if I was a betting lady.
If you like drama, be sure to follow me tonight and other Ohio banter here:
At the Civic Commons live-chat with my colleagues based in NE Ohio and me in DC: Election Day Backchannel
On Twitter, @jillmz
On Twitter, #nprmeetup and/or #Ohio
On Twitter, the NPR Meetup List: https://twitter.com/JuanSaaa/npr-election-night
Please make sure you vote (I got two sets of texts this morning -- from my husband and then my son. "Mom, what do I do about Issue 1?" Come on, people!)