COLUMBUS— State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) today announced the Count the Votes Act, a bill to end the practice of throwing out ballots for trivial and technical reasons. In the last presidential election, over 47,000 ballots were thrown out. Rejection rates in elections since then have gotten worse.
“Ohio has a big elections problem. We throw out tens of thousands of Ohioans’ ballots in every major election. Ohio ranked a dismal 47th in counting people’s ballots in the last presidential election,” said Rep. Clyde. “The Count the Votes Act will create a presumption that voters’ ballots are valid and will be counted. Under the bill, a ballot would only be rejected if there is evidence that it’s not cast by a registered Ohio voter.”
Rep. Clyde has been contacted by many voters, including James Hayes, who had his ballot rejected and supports this common sense law change to protect his rights.
“In this country in particular it’s important that we respect every person’s right to vote. We need to continue expanding the right to vote, not shrinking it,” said Hayes, whose provisional ballot was thrown out in 2010 just because he voted at the wrong polling location. “For so many working people who have families, kids, multiple jobs and are balancing so much – if they go to the wrong polling location there is absolutely no reason that their vote should be thrown out.”
Ohio Voice elections policy specialist Camille Wimbish also spoke in favor of the bill.
“Every eligible voter should be able to cast their ballot and have their vote counted. Typos and other insignificant errors should not invalidate a person’s registration, absentee application, or ballot,” said Wimbish.
The Civil Rights Act prohibits throwing out ballots for minor technical errors or omissions. The National Voter Registration Act prohibits the purging of voters simply for not voting or for moving if they remain eligible to vote after the move.
“The biggest groups of ballots we throw out are cast by voters who have moved and are not sent to the correct precinct by election officials and those who are allegedly not registered,” Clyde added. “This problem grew immensely in the recent primary. There were nine times more Franklin County voters and seven times more Cuyahoga County voters missing from the rolls, allegedly not registered, in the recent primary compared with the 2012 primary. The increased rejection rate is a terrible preview of what’s to come this fall if we don’t take quick measures to put people back on the rolls and count their votes.”
Rep. Clyde introduced the Stop the Purge Act, HB 402, in December. It has yet to receive a hearing.