Top Ohio Democrat Warns On Cincinnati Balloting

“People are being pushed to provisional ballots unnecessarily when they should be able to vote a regular ballot,” Sen. Eric Kearney says. “We’ve not heard of any issues,” says the Secretary of State’s office.

Ohio’s state Senate Minority Leader, Democratic Sen. Eric Kearney, complained Tuesday that poor voters are being “pushed” to cast provisional ballots in inner-city Cincinnati, saying people in the traditionally African-American, poor neighborhoods are being “pushed” to cast the alternative ballots that won’t be counted for at least 11 days.

“People are being pushed to provisional ballots unnecessarily when they should be able to vote a regular ballot — the percentage is way up at certain key polling locations,” Kearney told BuzzFeed of inner-city locations in Cincinnati on Tuesday.

A spokesman from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office, however, said they had not received any complaints regarding the use of provisional ballots in Cincinnati.

Spokesman Matthew McClellan told BuzzFeed, “We’ve not heard of any issues and we won’t have numbers on how many provisionals have been cast until much later this evening,”

Kearney, who represents parts of Cincinnati, described what he saw as the problem — and its cause.

“It’s got nothing to do with the crowd, it has everything to do with poll-worker confusion. The rules were not clearly spelled out: They’re asking people for photo ID, you don’t need that in Ohio, but they’re requiring that in certain instances They’re requiring that the address on the ID match the address in the book — that’s not required.”

“That’s causing this increased number of provisional ballots,” he said, specifically referencing Over-the-Rhine, Evanston, Madisonville and West End. “Those neighborhoods are traditionally African-American, poor.”

Kearney blamed “a lack of clarity around what the rules” are for when an Ohio voter should have to cast a provisional ballot — Husted’s job — for the confusion.

Kearney also took to Twitter earlier today to voice his criticism about the issue:

Election discrepancies being discussed on WDBZ. Do not take a provisional ballot!— Eric H. Kearney

Winton Terrace polling place giving out provisional ballots like candy.— Eric H. Kearney

Then, again an hour ago:

Headed to Evanston regarding voter suppression.

— Eric H. Kearney (@ehk009)

Headed to Evanston regarding voter suppression.— Eric H. Kearney

UPDATE (9:00 PM): A Democratic source told BuzzFeed that Democrats expect three times as many provisional ballots to be cast in Ohio this year as in 2008. The source noted that about 5 percent of the ballots across the state were cast provisionally in 2008 and said that Democrats were seeing numbers around 17-18 percent in counties across the state this year. With just over 200,000 such ballots in 2008, the source agreed that the number could easily be over 500,000 this year.

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Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at chris.geidner@buzzfeed.com.
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