Who Really Won?

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Throwing Votes Away: 8,099 Cuyahoga ballots ruled invalid

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections voted Monday to reject one out of three of the 24,472 provisional ballots cast in the Nov. 2 election.

The bulk of the 8,099 invalidated ballots were determined to have been cast by nonregistered voters or registered voters who cast their ballots in the wrong precinct. Voters received provisional ballots at the polls on Election Day if their names did not appear on the voter rolls.

Among Ohio's 88 counties, Cuyahoga County had the largest number of the controversial ballots, which pre-election predictions had said could rival the hanging chad as a blemish on official election results.

In the 2000 election, about 17 percent of provisional ballots were invalidated, compared with 33 percent in this election.

As county elections workers stood watch over a hand truck bearing 10 boxes stuffed with invalidated ballots, an ensemble of lawyers, professors and others who were active in voter registration drives made it clear that the board's decision won't quell the lingering disquiet about the possibility that some legitimate votes won't be counted.

During the 2½ hours the board meeting was delayed, lawyers and elections volunteers swapped tallies, analyses and stories about Election Day mishaps, many of which they offered in testimony after the board vote.

Confusion among poll workers about provisional-ballot procedures resulted in inconsistent, and sometimes erroneous, directions to voters, and some legitimate voter registrations never made the official rolls because of administrative errors, according to testimony.

Seventy percent of the rejected ballots, or 5,595, won't count because there was no record of their registration.

"I find it inconceivable that over 5,000 voters in the county would wait an hour in the pouring rain to vote if they haven't registered," said Dr. Norm Robbins, a neurosciences professor at Case Western Reserve University who volunteered for the Greater Cleveland Voter Registration Coalition.

Just remember, both sides have told us repeatedly that there is no mathematical chance for Kerry to overtake Bush in Ohio. So why do they need to throw votes away? Why not count the votes?