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Tom Feran
By Tom Feran February 7, 2012

Kathleen Clyde says Ohio among the leaders for provisional ballots in the nation

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said last month that the state’s legislators should repeal House Bill 194, the controversial overhaul of election laws that Republicans pushed through the General Assembly last spring.

Senate Republicans began working on a new voting plan. Democrats, who had led the effort to put HB 194 on next November's ballot as a referendum, said they were prepared to introduce election legislation that would lead to more voter participation and more ballots being counted.

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde of Kent said at a news conference that the Democrats' measures would reduce the number of reasons for making voters cast provisional ballots, make election officials and not voters responsible for mistakes with ballots and require provisional ballots to be counted unless there was clear evidence of wrongdoing.

"Ohio has one of the highest provisional ballot rates in the country, and many of them go uncounted each election," she said.

Provisional ballots are used when there is a question about a voter's eligibility at the polling station. That could include not having the documentation to verify their identity as a registered voter or a question about whether they voted absentee. Poll workers allow the person to vote with a provisional ballot until the problem is sorted out, and if the person is an eligible voter, then the ballot is counted.

PolitiFact Ohio decided to check to see if Ohio was really among the national leaders.

We asked Rep. Clyde for her numbers and source.

"Ohio had 204,651 provisional ballots in 2008, the last presidential election year," she responded via email. Of that total, "roughly 40,000 were not counted. Forty-thousand is indeed many."

Clyde said her numbers came from the Election Day Survey Report of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. We checked the report. It said that three states —
California, New York, and Ohio — reported the highest numbers of provisional ballots
cast, accounting for 59.4 percent of the nation’s total.

PolitiFact Ohio found that the numbers also coincided with a  report on provisional voting by the nonpartisan Pew Center on the States.

We also looked at the commission’s report for the 2010 midterm election. That year, too, it said, California and Ohio were the states with the largest number of provisional ballots, accounting for almost two-thirds of all provisional ballots cast nationwide. In Ohio there were 105,015 provisional ballots cast and 11,753 -- or more than 10 percent -- were rejected.

Clyde’s claim had two components.

The first part was that "Ohio has one of the highest provisional ballot rates in the country." Data from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and from the Pew Center on the States backs that claim. Ohio was among the leaders for number of provisional ballots for both the 2008 and 2010 general elections.

The second part of her claim was that "many of them go uncounted each election."

How many is many? We think tens of thousands of ballots can be classified as "many."

In 2008, nearly 40,000 provisional ballots, just under 20 percent, were rejected in Ohio.

In the 2010 election, More than 11,000, slightly more than 11 percent, were rejected. Only three states rejected more ballots. Among states larger than Ohio, Texas, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania all had fewer provisional ballots and fewer rejections.

Featured Fact-check

On the Truth-O-Meter, Clyde’s statement rates True.

Our Sources

The Plain Dealer via, "Ohio Senate Republicans take another crack at election reform before the fall presidential election," Feb. 05, 2012

OhioCapitalBlog, "House Dems on Election Reform," Jan. 27, 2012

U.S. Election Assistance Commission, "2008 Election Administration and Voting Survey and Data Sets," November 2009

U.S. Election Assistance Commission, "2010 Election Administration and Voting Survey," December 2011

Pew Center on the States, "Provisional Ballots in the 2008 Ohio General Election," authored by R. Michael Alvarez, California Institute of Technology, and Thad E. Hall, University of Utah

Email from State Rep. Kathleen Clyde, Feb. 3, 2012

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More by Tom Feran

Kathleen Clyde says Ohio among the leaders for provisional ballots in the nation

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