Who Really Won?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Erasing Votes By the Thousands In Ohio

Ralph and Barbara George are lifelong Democrats who first registered to vote for John F. Kennedy in 1960 and have lived in the same East Toledo house for 44 years.

They called the Lucas County Board of Elections early last year to make sure they still were registered to vote.

Informed that they were, they went on with life, including helping their son, just home from military service, to purchase a new home. Then, last fall, they applied for absentee ballots.

It was then that they were surprised to discover - too late to do anything about it - that they were somehow no longer registered and wouldn't be allowed to vote in the general election.

At the last minute, they learned that they could cast provisional ballots, so they hustled down to their polling place and did so.

It was a waste of time. Their votes were thrown out.

"Nothing surprises me anymore," said Mrs. George when she discovered last week their votes were fruitless.

"My God. We are 66 years old. We registered when we first turned 21. We have lived in this same house for 44 years, and I can't vote. It just seems ridiculous that you have to keep re-registering if you don't vote," she said. "It just turned into plain, absolute frustration."

An examination of elections records showed that, because of inactivity in recent elections, they were purged from voter rolls in August, less than three months before the presidential election.

They weren't alone. Of the 3,122 provisional ballots from the Nov. 2 general election that were rejected in Lucas County, 64 percent were bounced because the voter was not registered. Of those, 405 had been registered until they were purged from the county election rolls in August, just months before the presidential election.