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Ohioans Who Didn't Get Absentee Ballots Can Vote Provisional
Judge Makes Ruling

Associated Press   02 November 2004

COLUMBUS, Ohio Ohio voters who did not receive absentee ballots on time can cast provisional ballots at the polls, a federal judge in Toledo ruled Tuesday.

The decision by U.S. District Court Judge David Katz reverses an earlier directive by Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell who said the voters could not cast provisional ballots despite not receiving their absentee ballots.

Blackwell spokesman Carlo LoParo said he had no comment until he was able to read the ruling.

Sarah White, a Toledo woman who attends college in Columbus, sued elections officials with help of the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights, a San Francisco-based group, on behalf of Ohio voters who claim they did not receive absentee ballots requested before the Oct. 31 deadline.

It was unclear how many voters were affected, but the leader of the group that helped file the lawsuit said several people said they hadn't received the absentee ballots they requested, which is why the group sought a statewide ruling.

Provisional ballots are counted days after the election if officials verify that the voter was legally registered and in the correct precinct.

Katz's order directs Blackwell to notify all Ohio boards of elections within 30 minutes of the 3:01 p.m. ruling that they must give provisional ballots to voters who ask for one regardless of whether they previously asked for an absentee ballot.

The federal Help America Vote Act requires that people who claim to be eligible voters must be allowed to cast provisionals regardless of the reason they are not on the rolls or are challenged. Elections officials can determine if the ballots are legal later, the judge wrote in the four-page order.

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