Friday, November 26, 2004

Suit seeks new look at rejected Ohio ballots

CLEVELAND, Ohio (AP) -- A watchdog group sued Friday to try to stop Cuyahoga County's elections board from rejecting thousands of provisional ballots until they are hand checked against voter-registration cards.

People for the American Way Foundation said the board wrongly relied only on computerized registration records, which are compiled from the cards and could contain errors such as misspellings.

Provisional ballots are cast when voters say they are properly registered but precinct workers can't find their names on their registration lists.

Two-thirds of the 24,472 provisional ballots cast in Cuyahoga County were later found to be valid, but the other 8,099 were thrown out, mostly because the people who cast them were not found on the county's computerized records.

The national civil rights group filed the suit in the 8th District Court of Appeals against Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell and the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. Blackwell's office did not immediately return a message seeking comment. The county board said declined to comment until it has reviewed the suit.

The lawsuit also seeks to give voters the chance to have their provisional ballots counted if they cast ballots in the wrong precinct without being directed to the correct one. An appeals court found last month that a provisional ballot cast outside a voter's home precinct isn't valid.

According to unofficial tallies, President Bush beat Democrat John Kerry in Ohio by 136,000 votes. Kerry has conceded not enough outstanding votes exist to sway the election his way in the key battleground state.

The deadline for counties to complete their official counts is next Wednesday.