Ohio Secretary of State Blocks New Voter Registrations
By Jim Bebbington and Laura Bischoff
Dayton Daily News
Tuesday 28 September 2004
Boards of elections told to strictly follow two provisions.
Dayton - Voters-rights advocates are criticizing two recent decisions by Ohio Secretary of State
J. Kenneth Blackwell that they say will unfairly limit some people's ability to vote Nov. 2.
Blackwell's office has told county boards of elections to follow strictly two provisions in Ohio
One requires Ohio voter registration cards be printed on thick, 80-pound stock paper.
The other ordered boards to strictly interpret the rules regarding provisional ballots, the
ones cast by voters who move before the election but are still registered in Ohio.
The paper-stock issue is frustrating Montgomery County Board of Elections officials, who
have a backlog of registrations to complete. If they get an Ohio voter registration card on
paper thinner than required, they are mailing a new card out to the voter. But if they still
have the backlog by the registration deadline, Oct. 4, voters will not have another chance
to get their correct paperwork in, said Steve Harsman, deputy director of the Montgomery
"There is just no reason to use 80-pound paper," Harsman said.
In Montgomery County there is a backlog of around 4,000 registrations,
Harsman said. A few hundred could be affected by this provision, he said.
Cuyahoga County board of elections officials are ignoring the edict because they have
already had an avalanche of new registrations submitted on forms printed on newsprint
in The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.
"We don't have a micrometer at each desk to check the weight of the paper,"
said Michael Vu, director of the Cuyahoga County Board.
Blackwell's office has given the Cuyahoga board a special dispensation to accept
the newsprint registration forms. The requirement is because the forms are designed to
be mailed like post-cards and must be thick enough to survive mechanical sorters at the
U.S. Post Office, according to Blackwell's spokesman Carlo LoParo.
"Our directive stands and it is specifically in place to protect new registrants to make
sure the forms are not destroyed," LoParo said.
Confusing the matter further is a national registration form available off the Internet at
the federal Elections Assistance Agency. That form must be accepted by Ohio boards
regardless of what it is printed on, Blackwell has said.
The heavy-weight paper was a requirement when the cards were kept for years,
were used to keep track of when a person voted, and were the main way to check
signatures to combat voter fraud and verify petitions. But many boards, including both
Montgomery and Cuyahoga, scan the signatures into a computer database and no
longer record voting history on the cards.
The League of Women Voters of Ohio on Thursday called on Blackwell to clarify
his position. League national president Kay Maxwell said she knows of no other states
that are requiring the 80-pound paper stock for voter registration cards. "This is the first
I've heard of it," she said on Thursday in Columbus.
The other directive forbids poll workers from giving a provisional ballot unless the
person can prove they live in that precinct. Peg Rosenfield, spokeswoman for the league,
said she interprets federal to be less restrictive. Rosenfield says people who show up at
the wrong precinct should be given a ballot and allowed to vote on the non-local races.
See vast SunMt archives on election frauds