FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 30, 2019
COLUMBUS–Franklin County voters are more likely to cast provisional ballots – and have those ballots rejected – than other large counties in Ohio, according to a new analysis of 2018 election data by All Voting is Local released today. The report, Rejected: How the Provisional Ballot System in Franklin County, Ohio Fails Voters found Black, low-income and young voters cast a disproportionately high number of provisional ballots and urges county officials to confront the inequities with comprehensive voter education and increased poll worker training.
“Franklin County cannot create a two-tiered election system where some voters cast a regular ballot with ease, while others are relegated to a ballot of last resort that might never get counted,” said Mike Brickner, All Voting is Local Ohio State Director. “All eligible voters should be able to cast a ballot that counts. Officials must do better to ensure voters have the information they need about when and where to vote and that poll workers are trained and ready to help voters with any questions.”
The report urges the Franklin County Board of Elections and the Franklin County Commissioners to work together to fund a voter education program that targets provisional ballot issues and the communities most impacted by them. The Board of Elections and County Commissioners have been deadlocked since 2018 over funding of voter education, with commissioners withholding an approved yearly budget until election officials agree to spend funding on voter education. It further calls on officials to reform poll worker training to confront underlying reasons that voters are forced to cast provisional ballots, and why these ballots are rejected.
Among the key findings in Voting is Local’s analysis:
- Voters in Franklin County cast more provisional ballots compared to other large counties in Ohio.
- Voters in predominantly Black communities were more than twice as likely to cast a provisional ballot than mostly-white communities.
- Voters in poor communities were nearly four times more likely to cast a provisional ballot than more affluent areas.
- Young voters were nearly five times more likely to cast a provisional ballot than communities with older voters.
- Over one in five rejected provisional ballots statewide came from Franklin County.
- Nearly two-thirds of all provisional ballots statewide rejected due to a mismatched signature are from Franklin County.
- Voters who cast a provisional ballot because of insufficient ID or because they are in the wrong location may have their ballots rejected. Franklin County made up one-third of the total number of ballots rejected statewide for these reasons.
Provisional ballots are often considered a “last resort” for voters who encounter problems at the polls, such as not appearing in the poll books, showing up at the wrong polling location or having insufficient ID. All Voting is Local’s report underscores how high rates of provisional ballot use reveal such systemic problems as inadequate voter education and poll workers who are ill equipped to help voters.
The report also highlights personal stories from 2018 Franklin County voters to illustrate the burden to voters when the election system relies too heavily on provisional ballots. The report describes how a voter was told to vote by provisional ballot, despite being a registered voter with a valid ID. The report also highlights the experience of a poll worker who explains being troubled by the lack of poll worker training and the increased use of provisional ballots.
Read the full report here.
Watch our video from a poll worker who explains why poll worker training is vital to an election system where all voices are heard.
All Voting is Local fights to eliminate needless and discriminatory barriers to voting before they happen, to build a democracy that works for us all. It is a collaborative campaign housed at The Leadership Conference Education Fund, in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation; the American Constitution Society; the Campaign Legal Center; and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. For more information about All Voting is Local, visit https://allvotingislocal.org and follow us on Twitter @votingislocal.