My Beautiful Wickedness


Politics as usual in Ohio
September 28, 2008, 1:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

John McCain’s campaign has sent out about a million forms reminding urban Democrats to vote and providing a form through which one could request an absentee ballot. (See also voter caging, a process whereby these kinds of forms are sent out to verify residences in areas hard hit by the foreclosure crisis. The GOP builds a list of registered Democrats that they can challenge as non-resident should their mailing be returned as undeliverable to the GOP. The Ohio Secretary of State had already ruled that the GOP could not use her mailings as the sole basis for disqualification, so they decided to send out their own.)

The McCain forms — in keeping with their purpose of verifying voter qualifications — included an extra box not required by law. McCain’s forms added a check-off box that was aimed at forcing voters to declare themselves an eligible elector. That’s not part of the Ohio absentee form and it’s weirdly positioned on the form so that it doesn’t look like you have to check it off. Predictably, people who are requesting ballots just aren’t checking it off. In a narrow interpretation of voting law, Ohio Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has declared many absentee ballot requests submitted on these forms invalid. If the box remained unchecked, Brunner says the form wasn’t completed (in essence, the person is admitting that they have no standing to vote) and therefore their ballot request will not be granted without further investigation.

While this ruling will doubtlessly be challenged in court, I think that it will stand. However, it’s going to be costly for Ohio counties because counties are required to notify all voters whose absentee request forms have been rejected that they have to refile. The Ohioans I’ve talked to are pissed, since it’s their tax dollars that will have to go to clean this up — tens of thousands of people are trying to get absentee ballots, especially in places where the polls are predicted to be snarled by GOP challenges, and about a third of those people are going to have to be contacted by phone or by letter so that they can have a chance to file a timely ballot. So, it’s ultimately a black eye for McCain in places where he doesn’t have that much of a margin for error. It’s also going to be costly for the McCain campaign in terms of voter mobilization. The vast majority of Democratic voters who didn’t check the box, as it turns out, are qualified to vote or will have the time to fix their registration because of the early notification that they will receive from the Secretary of State’s office.

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