03 April 2014

The Republican Party and the Romney presidential campaign’s voter repression machine produced nearly 30,000 provisional ballots in Franklin County, Ohio. This accounts for roughly 5% of all the votes cast.


On Election Day, the Free Press reported a high number of early provisional at a majority African American polling location, Driving Park, on the Near East side. After complaints from Green Party observers and election attorneys from the Obama campaign, the illegal practice of forcing voters who were registered in the pollbook to vote provisionally, ceased.


Sherri Hamilton, a Green Party observer at Driving Park, complained about provisional voters being sent to the wrong precincts and being allowed to vote provisionally at the wrong location. These actions could have potentially disqualified their votes.


Just prior to the counting of provisional ballots in Franklin County, U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley announced in open court that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s directive to count provisional ballots “casts serious doubts on his protestations of good faith.” Judge Marbley questioned specifically why Husted’s directive required voters, not the pollworkers, to fill in identifying information on the provisional ballot envelope. Marbley argued that it was unduly burdensome for voters to do the pollworkers’ job.


Husted’s office, in the past, has indicated that by telling pollworkers not the assist voters, it saves the pollworkers and secretary of state from being sued for “pollworker error” that disqualify people’s votes.


As Marbley denounced Husted’s order, the Judge noted that the directive “illegally shifts the burden of recording identification information from election officials to voters and does not allow election workers to distinguish poll-worker error from voter failure to provide identification….”


Green Party election observers reported interesting and some allegedly illegal activities throughout Franklin County on Election Day.


At Worthington Park Elementary polling site, Ward 17-A, a Green Party observer reported that the presiding judge “proudly declared herself to be a member of the True the Vote group.” The judge told the observer that “people say we’re suppressing voters – but we’re not – there’s a large number of fraudulently registered voters.”


The judge bragged that, “We went through all the voting list – and submitted a list to Jon Justed for purging and found that he had already purged those voters.”


Romney’s highly touted ORCA project designed to transmit real-time voter turnout data in every precinct in Ohio emerged in Worthington at Kilbourne High School, Ward 72, Precincts B and E. A Green Party observer reported that “a woman came in about 6:40am saying she was with the Romney campaign and part of the ORCA project.”


The Romney worker described ORCA as a “new sophisticated technology program to enable tracking of voters by name as they vote.” The observer reported that she set up a chair about four feet from the registration table and claimed, “I have special certification to look at the polling book.” The Green observer called the voter help line set up by the county and was informed that there was only one certification for observers, and no one had a right to look at the pollbook other than the judges and election workers hired by the Board of Elections could touch the pollbook.


Similar Romney workers were found at the Pontifical College Josephinum, 72-C. The observer noted that two women were checking absentee ballots and plugging names into handheld devices. The observer noted that the women ignored his question about their handling of the absentee ballots and simply told him “I’m from the campaign.”


At Worthington Industries, 71-F, two election observers identified as members of the Republican Party similarly “huddled at the far end of the room pouring over an absentee ballot list taken down from the wall” which was “OK with the PJ [presiding judge].”


The observer noted in his report that he “checked and learned that this was not legal –asked them to return list to the wall….”
All of these situations underscore a broken system geared toward repressing urban voters and allowing Republican campaign volunteers to engage in questionable election activities.


These are just a few of the incidences recorded by observers in conjunction with the Free Press’ Election Protection Project. The Free Press plans a more detailed report to be posted in the near future.


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Bob Fitrakis was a leader of the Green Party/Free Press Election Protection project.