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Federal appeals court rejects Ohio law discarding provisional ballots cast in wrong precinct

The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] on Thursday upheld [opinion, PDF] a preliminary injunction against an Ohio state election law adopted in 2006 that discards provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct. Pursuant to the law, the provisional ballots were rejected even if the error was caused by a poll worker. More than 14,000 provisional ballots were discarded in Ohio in the 2008 elections as a result of this law. The court's decision upheld a lower court ruling [JURIST report] finding that the law should be blocked for the upcoming election. In its decision, the court found that the state law unfairly burdened Ohio voters: "The State would disqualify thousands of right place/wrong-precinct provisional ballots, where the voter's only mistake was relying on the poll-worker's precinct guidance. That path unjustifiably burdens these voters' fundamental right to vote."

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted [official website] is currently defending another Ohio voting requirement in federal court. He recently filed an emergency appeal [JURIST report] with the US Supreme Court seeking permission to close early voting three days prior to election day for everyone but overseas military personnel. Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine [official website] filed the request seeking to stay an order by the Sixth Circuit which ruled that the early voting polls should remain open [opinion, PDF] for the three days leading up to election day. Voting rights [JURIST backgrounder] have become especially contentious in the run up to the November presidential election. A federal court on Wednesday upheld a South Carolina voter ID law, but ruled that the state could not enforce the law until 2013 [JURIST report] because of the short time left to implement it without discriminatory effects. A similar ruling was issued in Pennsylvania earlier this month. A judge for the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court issued a preliminary injunction preventing the state's voter identification law from taking effect [JURIST report] for the upcoming presidential election, but allowed it to be implemented in future elections. There are now 32 US states [NCSL backgrounder] that require voters to present some form of ID at the polls, but the issue remains controversial.

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