The vast majority of provisional ballots cast in Ohio were legitimate, say election officials who are poring over thousands of presidential election ballots.
The ballots that are being rejected are invalid because people simply were not registered, did not give information such as addresses or signatures, or voted in precincts where they do not live.
“Some people thought because they had changed their mailing address at the post office, or had changed their utilities, that they had done everything necessary to be eligible to vote,” said Nancy Moore, deputy director of the Belmont County Board of Elections. “They still have to change their address at the board of elections. We’re not mind readers.”
President Bush beat Democrat John Kerry in Ohio by 136,000 votes in unofficial tallies, and Kerry has conceded that not enough outstanding votes exist to sway the election his way in the key battleground state.
Of the 11 counties that have completed checking provisional ballots, 81 percent of the ballots are valid, according to an Associated Press survey Monday. Counties that have completed partial tallies also said most of the provisional ballots were being counted.
Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is located, has processed 40 percent, or 9,719 votes, of its 24,788 provisional ballots and rejected a third, according to a board tally. Most are being rejected because the voters were not registered.
In many counties, the smallest portion of rejected ballots was due to votes being cast in the wrong precinct. Before the election, Democrats lost a court appeal seeking to allow people to cast provisional ballots in precincts where they do not live.
Election officials said heightened public attention to the court case and the efforts of poll workers helped voters arrive at the right precincts.
Ohio voters cast 155,337 provisional ballots, which are used when voters names are not on the rolls for some reason or their eligibility is otherwise in doubt. Counties have until Dec. 1 to complete their final count. In 2000, about 87 percent of provisional ballots were counted.
Officials are determining voters’ eligibility before counting each vote, so the result is not yet known.
In Colorado, the approval rate of provisional ballots was 76 percent, according to a survey of counties by the Denver Post. Nearly 24 percent of the state’s estimated 51,000 provisional ballots had been rejected, the newspaper reported Wednesday.
Election officials had not yet compiled the reason for the rejections, the newspaper said. The rejection rate was 12 percent in Colorado in 2002, a non-presidential election year.
President Bush won in Colorado by more than 5 percentage points.