The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

October 29, 2006

11th-hour vote change anger election officials




Judge strikes down absentee ID requirement

By MARK TODD



Staff Writer

mtodd@starbeacon.com



JEFFERSON - - Court battles continue to change election rules just before the game begins, and local officials are fed up.

The latest alteration came Thursday, when a federal judge threw out the identification requirements set by state law to vote by absentee ballot. U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley ruled the requirements are unclear and tough to enforce consistently across Ohio.

The ruling does not affect Identification rules in place for people who will vote at polling places - - for now. Some voter-advocacy groups are protesting the polling place ID requirement, and Marbley is expected to issue a ruling on the matter next week.

Richard Hornstein, Ashtabula County election board director, expects the polling place ID rule will get tossed. "If they throw out the absentee rule, they'll probably throw out the (polling place) rule, too," he said.

All the last-minute changes is raising the frustration level at the Ashtabula County Board of Elections.

"We just spent a lot of time training 500 booth workers and presiding judges on ID regulations," said Richard Hornstein, director. "After all this training we did, if things get changed, it will be difficult to reach all the workers (with the revised information)."

It's maddening to think all the effort put into training this month could be voided less than two weeks before the election, Hornstein said. "We can't keep going on-and-off, on-and-off all the time," he said.

Some of the new election laws were shaky to begin with, Hornstein said. "Some of the rules (lawmakers) are putting in are ridiculous," he said.

In hindsight, the election law revisions probably should have gone into effect next year, not during a big gubernatorial election, to provide more time to work out any legal bugs, Hornstein said.

The absentee identification change won't pose a problem for the local election board. Everyone who sought an absentee ballot complied with the requirements, Hornstein said.

As of Friday, 4,300 people had requested absentee ballots, almost three times the number in the county's last gubernatorial election, he said. Barring any glitches, the board's new high-speed tabulating machines should handle the count with no problem, Hornstein said.

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