An error in how voters update their address online caused updated registration records to be delivered late to Ohio’s election officials. With about a week left in Ohio’s voting process, the late delivery might have caused the Hamilton County Board of Elections to mistakenly reject some eligible voters because officials did not have the voters’ current addresses.
Amy Searcy, director of elections at the board, says it’s unclear how many registered voters were affected, but 2,129 updated registration records were sent from Ohio Secretary of State John Husted’s office. She says the number could end up varying since some of the records are duplicates.
Across the state, an unknown number of ballots were mistakenly rejected as 33,000 registration records were sent late on Monday and Tuesday. Cleveland's The Plain Dealer reported 71 voters were mistakenly rejected in Cuyahoga County.
Matt McClellan, Husted’s spokesperson, said Husted’s offices were previously unaware of the data, which is why it wasn’t requested before the glitch was detected by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV).
The glitch caused the BMV to not properly send online address changes to Husted’s office, says Joe Andrews, communications director at the Ohio Department of Public Safety, which oversees the BMV. He added, “As soon as we discovered it, we fixed it. And I think that, in cooperation with the secretary of state’s office, the problem has been remedied.”
In a directive detailing the delay, Husted touted the benefits of the catch.
“While the timing is unfortunate, we are extremely pleased that the data from this new system can be sent electronically and will require minimal data entry,” he wrote. “Additionally, the new system has the potential to help reduce provisional ballots significantly.”
Outdated registration records are one of the major reasons voters cast provisional ballots, which are ballots given to voters whose eligibility is unclear. In 2008, nearly 205,000 provisional ballots were cast and about 40,000 — about 20 percent — were rejected for varying reasons. Recently, a federal judge blocked an Ohio law that led to 14,000 of those rejections. Husted followed up that ruling with an appeal and a request for an emergency stay.
Tim Burke, chairman of the county Board of Elections and county Democratic Party, expressed mixed feelings about the caught error.
“Obviously, you hate like hell to have the secretary of state’s office, which had promised to have a very efficient election, popping something like that on us seven days out,” he says. “Having said that, I’m glad at least once they recognized that these names are out there they moved to get them to us so that we can do our best to ensure that these folks are not disenfranchised because of some administrative glitch.”
He says the board will contact any mistakenly rejected voters.