Barhite: Take provisions before the next electionWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
I was wrong.
That’s hard to admit after I caused a bit of a stir at my polling location Nov. 4, but the situation is a lesson in voter responsibility and getting ready for the next election.
Here’s what happened. I was in line to cast my ballot when a gentleman came into my Monclova polling location and asked where an older acquaintance (or relative) could vote because he had moved.
I was not paying a ton of attention, but it appeared that the poll worker told him the person would need to go to the polling location associated with his new address.
That seemed to be a distressful answer for the man, so I spoke up and said, “Can’t he just cast a provisional ballot?” (The content of the ballot is exactly the same, but it is cast provisionally until election officials can verify eligibility.)
The poll worker dismissed my idea.
I thought I was right, but didn’t want to push it, so I nodded and smiled because I wanted to finish voting and get to my computer to research and prove my rightness.
I was feeling victorious a few key strokes into my investigation, but then I spoke with Matthew McClellan, press secretary for the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.
“Provisional ballots cast in the right polling place but wrong precinct would be counted provided all of the other information is accurate and the person is a registered voter,” he said.
What does this mean? Well, for starters, I was wrong. More importantly, it means that you have to go the right polling place; you can’t just go to any polling place in Ohio.
For instance, if I forgot to vote in Monclova and decided to vote with a provisional ballot in Bowling Green, my ballot would not count.
“You have to be in the right polling location,” McClellan said.
However, if I went to the right polling place and there were three precincts in this one location, I could vote provisionally at the wrong precinct.
McClellan said it is like going to a school building and picking the wrong classroom. The other analogy is “right church, wrong pew,” he said.
In those cases, people could cast provisional ballots and once the information is verified, the votes would be counted. However, any issues not affiliated with their current address would be discounted.
In Ohio this year, there were about 4,700 polling places and 9,100 precincts.
One of the most common reasons that people vote provisionally is because their address changed or they forgot a valid ID. Filling out a provisional ballot counts as a change of address.
“We always stress to voters that you need to make sure that you are registered and your information is up to date,” McClellan said. “It is important to know where your polling place is.”
The Secretary of State has a tool on its website that allows people to find where they are supposed to vote. It also has a new feature that allows registered voters to go online to update their address.
“We have tried to make it easier for people to maintain their information. It is still a responsibility of the voter to make sure they have done this,” McClellan said.
His office also mails postcards to people who have moved and haven’t updated their address.
“We do try to reach out and notify voters to make sure they know,” he said. “It takes just a couple of minutes.”
In my case, it took a few minute to realize I was wrong.