'New Ruling' in Cuyahoga County Rejects Ballots Without Date of Birth
Also...19,000 unexplained votes added in Bush-heavy Miami County, OH
By Brad Friedman on 11/14/2004, 1:21pm PT  

According to an article in the Columbus Free Press, perhaps thousands of valid provisional ballots in the Buckeye State are now being rejected due to a "new ruling" in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

A new rule for counting provisional ballots in Cuyahoga County, Ohio was implemented on Tuesday, November 9 at approximately 2:30 in the afternoon, according to election observer Victoria Lovegren.

The new ruling in Cuyahoga County mandates that provisional ballots in yellow packets must be “Rejected” if there is no “date of birth” on the packet. The Free Press obtained copies of the original “Provisional Verification Procedure” from Cuyahoga County which stated “Date of birth is not mandatory and should not reject a provisional ballot.” The original procedure required the voter's name, address and a signature that matched the signature in the county's database.

Lovegren described the clerks as “kind of disturbed” after the new ruling came down. She said that one of the clerks told her, “This is new. This just came down. They just changed it in the last thirty minutes.” According to Lovegren, 80 yellow-jacketed provisional ballots piled up in the hour and 45 minutes she observed. By Lovegren's tally, three provisional ballots were rejected because the registered voters' registration had been “cancelled.” The rest, she said, were being discarded because of no date of birth.

The margin separating Bush and Kerry in Ohio was approximately 136,000 with some 155,000 provisional ballots still to be counted, along with absentee and U.S. overseas votes as well.

The article also gives an excellent description of rules involved in any potential recount procedures in Ohio. Given the Green/Libertarian Party's efforts to demand a recount there (latest reports show that as of Sunday morning, they have so far raised $121k of the $150k they are now seeking to fund the effort) that information may be useful in understanding how such a recount may unfold.

As well, the article also gives some interesting information on anomaly related to the late-reported vote totals in Miami County, OH. It refers to a report earlier in the week pointing out some 19,000 votes added to the totals after "100% of the precincts" had reported in:

In Miami County, with 100% of the precincts reporting at 9am EST Wednesday, Nov. 3, Bush had 20,807 votes (65.80%) and Kerry had 10,724 (33.92%). Miami reported 31,620 voters. Inexplicably, nearly 19,000 new ballots were added after all precincts reported, boosting Bush's vote to 33,039 (65.77%) to Kerry's 17,039 (33.92%). CASE is investigating why the percentage of the vote stayed exactly the same to three one-hundredths of a percentage point after nearly 19,000 new ballots were added. CASE members speculate that it's either a long-shot coincidence with the last three digits remaining the same, or that someone had pre-set a database and programmed a voting machine to cough up a pre-set percentage of votes. Miami County uses an easily hackable optical scanner with the central counter provided by the Republican-linked vendor ES&S.

Whether those 19,000 additional votes were absentee ballots added later to the Election Night totals --- as had been the reason given for a similar case of more votes than voters in Cuyahoga County --- I'm not able to determine. The identical percentages of those votes to the earlier tallies, however, is notable to say the least. One would think that percentages would change by at least a few hundreths or tenths with the addition of a full 19,000 votes to the tally!

UPDATE: An item in yesterday's Cincinnati Enquirer speaks to the matter of the provisional ballots rejected for missing date-of-birth:

There was some confusion, but Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's office has ordered that lack of a date of birth on a provisional ballot can't be used to throw it out. "There is a place on the paperwork for a provisional ballot for voters to write in date of birth. It is optional, and it does not nullify a ballot," said James Lee, a Blackwell spokesman.

Let's hope that's the definitive word on that particular matter!