Today, without intending to, I joined the many voters casting the dreaded “provisional ballot” in today’s election. I’m told that this means my vote won’t be counted for ten days; I guess that’s all right, just so long as it counts.
Recent changes in election law have created “no-fault” absentee voting, in which voters can cast absentee ballots without giving a reason. Following a mistake-plagued May primary election, our Board of Elections encouraged Cuyahoga County voters to cast absentee votes rather than wait until Election Day to vote.
So Lynn applied for an absentee ballot, received it, and sent it in well before Election Day. I sent in my own application on October 28, which should have allowed plenty of time for the Board of Elections to mail me my absentee ballot. But legal challenges to Ohio’s voter ID law drew conflicting court rulings, causing election boards to hold onto their absentee ballots for several days to find out whether they needed to put stickers on the envelopes.
The legal decision was finally made on Wednesday, and my absentee ballot arrived on Saturday. By that time the only certain way to make sure my ballot got to the Board of Elections on time was to drop it off, so I figured I might as well wait and vote at our polling place.
I headed over there early this morning, only to learn that once you apply for an absentee ballot the only way you can vote at the polling place is by provisional ballot. Two other voters were filling out provisional ballots while I completed mine, so clearly my experience wasn’t too unusual.
If they are going to encourage voters to vote absentee, I think election officials ought to make it clear that doing so locks voters out from conventional voting. But overall, the experience wasn’t bad. The young poll worker handling provisional ballots was a bit tentative, but it was only 7:30, so I guess that’s not too surprising. I just wish I had waited around to make sure he signed the envelope containing my ballot!