I wish to acknowledge the work of Pat Lent, Brian Taylor and Cindy Darrah who contributed research and ideas for this paper. Dan Kornacki converted the data from Lucas County into an Excel Spreadsheet.
This report contains overwhelming evidence of voter suppression in Lucas County, Ohio.
A list of voters who voted provisionally was obtained from the Lucas County Board of Elections. The report listed name, address, precinct voted in and reason for the vote being invalidated. Voter turnout data by precinct was obtained from the Lucas County Board of Elections website. Other information was obtained over the telephone from the Lucas County Board of Elections and the Wayne County City Clerk’s office.
A large number of citizens voted by provisional ballot in Lucas County on November 2nd and most of the uncounted provisional votes were cast in Toledo.
Lucas County Provisional Votes
Total Provisional Votes - 4,469
Votes Not Counted - 3,123
Provisional Votes Counted - 1,346
The unofficial figure for votes counted was 215,720 in Lucas County. Of these 133,977 were in Toledo and 81,743 were in suburbs and townships in Lucas County.
As a basis of comparison, I looked at the provisional votes cast in Detroit and Wayne County. Detroit is less than an hours drive from Toledo. The two cities have a lot in common. Both are great lakes cities with a history of heavy manufacturing that have suffered severe job losses in the past four years. Michigan’s Electoral College voted for Kerry while Ohio’s voted for Bush.
Wayne County Provisional Votes
Total Provisional Votes - 1,539
Votes not counted - 1,326
Provisional votes Counted - 213
According to the Wayne County Clerk’s Office, 729,947 citizens voted in the November 2nd election in Wayne County. Of these 330,443 were in Detroit and 399,504 were in suburbs and townships in Wayne County. Most of the provisional votes not counted were cast in Detroit, a total of 1, 221.
Wayne County Provisional Votes
Total Provisional Votes Not Counted - 1,326
Votes Not Counted in Detroit - 1,221
Votes Not Counted in Suburbs of Wayne County - 90
Provisional ballots not counted in Lucas County were more than twice the number in Wayne County, yet Wayne County had more than three times the number of votes cast. If Lucas County had uncounted votes in the same proportion of votes as Wayne, there would have been approximately 442 uncounted votes instead of 3,123.
These two counties with similar histories, large labor union representation and a strong Democratic base should have had similar percentage of people who cast provisional ballots. The fact that Lucas County had such a high number of uncounted votes in proportion to votes cast is further evidence of voter suppression in Ohio.
These are the wards in Lucas County (all happen to be in Toledo) with the highest number of “invalid” provisional votes, and the number of votes for Bush and for Kerry. As indicated in the table below, the wards with the highest number of uncounted votes also happen to have had an overwhelming amount of votes for the Democrat candidate for president. Most of these voters chose Kerry over Bush by about ten to one.
Lucas County Wards with the Highest Number of Uncounted Provisional Votes
|Ward||Uncounted Votes||Counted Votes||Votes/Bush||Votes/Kerry|
(The above data on voter turnout for Lucas County was obtained from “Rigging the Vote in Lucas County”, by Richard Hayes Phillips, Ph.D., www.freepress.org, December 10, 2004.)
Lucas County Board of Elections kept records of the official reason for not counting each of the uncounted provisional ballots. These are the reasons given by the B.O.E.
Lucas County Uncounted Provisional Votes - Reason
Not registered - 1,997
Wrong precinct - 917
Empty envelope - 117
Not a genuine signature - 31
Not registered in another county prior
to moving to Lucas County - 30
Other - 31
The ballots marked “other” according to a Board of Elections representative were because someone else signed the ballot such as attorney or guardian. When asked about the “empty envelope” category a representative told us that most likely someone forgot to put the ballot in an envelope after voting.
917 voters did not have their vote counted because they voted in the wrong precinct. The Ohio Secretary of State decided that only votes cast in the correct precinct were to be counted. Many voting places in Lucas County housed more than one precinct. Inside the building citizens waited in several different lines to vote depending on which precinct they were voting in. Using, Lucas County’s Board of Election web site, we looked up the correct precinct and polling place for the people whose votes were not counted because they were in the “wrong precinct”. We found that 342, more than a third of votes not counted for this reason, were actually cast in the correct building. They may have voted at the table right next to the one for their precinct or just down the hall from the correct table. We don’t know whether or not they were directed to the right precinct when they got to the polls.
Fifteen people were interviewed who had voted provisionally and whose votes were not counted. Since the list of names obtained from Lucas County did not include telephone numbers, we were able to contact only the people whose phone numbers were listed in the local telephone directory. This excluded people who have cell phones or who doesn’t have the landline telephone listed in their name. A door-to-door survey would probably be necessary to get an accurate picture of actually happened on Election Day.
The information we did get was very revealing and probably representative of the confusion and chaos that many people experienced in trying to find their polling place and trying to vote. One woman said that she called the Lucas County Board of Elections to verify the poll location for her family and herself and was told that their voting locating was moved. The family went to the new location and at the check-in table were told to wait in the short line, even though their neighbors were in the long line. They waited, found that their names were not on that list so were told to go to the long line. Their names were not on that list either and they were told to go back to the short line where they eventually were told to vote provisional ballots.
Fourteen of the people contacted did not know that their vote was invalid. Thirteen out of the fifteen appeared to have their vote suppressed. They followed the procedures for voter registration and made every effort to get to the correct polling place. Only two felt they did not have the time to go to another polling place when they were informed that they were not in the correct precinct. Nine of the people contacted said that they had voted before. Votes were suppressed either because names were purged from the polls or they were misdirected about where to vote.
There appeared to be a problem with registering to vote and having the information recorded by the county. Two people registered with someone who came to their door but they never received a card in the mail. One said he registered with someone on the street downtown and never received a card.
The confusion about where to vote started well before election day. One woman said that she had taken the week off work and had called the Lucas County Board of Elections for three days trying to find out where to vote. She said she couldn’t get through, since the lines were always busy. A man said that he received three different cards in the mail for three different polling locations. He went to the third one and his name was not on the list so he voted provisionally. Another said he tried to vote in the primary and was told he could not vote because he was newly registered. He said he had registered in February 2004 when he renewed his driver’s license. Then he tried to vote in November and was told he was in the wrong precinct but he hadn’t moved. A poll worker told a young woman who had registered to vote within the last year that it takes five years to get a name on the list so she would have to vote provisionally.
Some long time voters appeared to have had their names purged from the voter list.
A woman said that the last time she voted was in 2000 but when she tried to vote in 2004 she was told her name was not on the list.
It is hard to imagine that anyone who wanted to vote did not register in the months before the election. Several organizations such as A.C.O.R.N., America Coming Together, NAACP and others were out on the streets, registering people door-to-door and at grocery stores, gas stations and festivals. Yet there were 1, 997 votes not counted because they were “not registered”. Questions remain as to whether or not these voter registrations were recorded by the county or whether names were purged from the files.
People for the American Way Foundation, a Civil Rights Group have filed a lawsuit in Cuyahoga County to force the Board of Elections there to match all the uncounted provisional votes with the paper registration file. Previously, they had been required to match the provisional information with the computerized file. They also sued to allow votes marked “wrong precinct” to be counted if the voter was not directed to the correct precinct.
Some states notify voters as to whether or not their provisional ballot was counted. Ohio does not provide any notification. Citizens have to call a toll free number to find out if their vote was counted. None of the people we talked to recalled hearing about the phone number.
The Secretary of States Office in Ohio should publish their policy for purging of voter files and make public what criteria they used to purge the files for infrequent voters. This should be available by precinct for the whole state. The removal of names from the voter registration list should be uniform throughout the state. Citizens should be notified if their names are being removed from the list.
It is important to note that the names of people whose votes were not counted only include those who voted by provisional ballot. It does not include the scores of uncounted people who became discouraged on election day due to long lines, understaffed polling places, lack of voting machines or who were told they could not vote. Widespread incidents of voter disenfranchisement have been documented by Election Protection, CASE and Congressman John Conyer’s Office.