If so, maybe you should take a close look at Ohio this year. It could prove quite . . . entertaining. As well as provide another example of why good intentions pave the road to hell.
Prior to this year, some Ohio counties sent absentee ballot applications to all registered voters; others didn’t. Ohio decided to standardize their voting procedures.
So this year, all counties in Ohio mailed registered voters absentee ballot applications. (A side benefit would be to make it easy to vote by mail.) All told, 6.9 million of the state’s 7.8 million registered voters were mailed an absentee ballot application.
As expected, many took advantage of that opportunity – roughly 1.3 million as of about a week ago. And as of about a week ago, roughly 950,000 absentee ballots had been returned.
No one knows just how many absentee ballots ultimately will be requested in Ohio, or how many of those absentee ballots will be unused. In Ohio, this year absentee ballots may be requested up until November 3; they must be postmarked NLT November 5.
Also obviously, a number of those who requested absentee ballots will change their mind and decide to vote in person instead. Based on how many were outstanding a week ago, we’re talking potentially 350,000 or more people who could change their mind.
Now the law of unintended consequences comes into play.
In Ohio, if you (1) requested an absentee ballot, and (2) then show up to vote in person, you don’t get to just waltz into the voting booth and vote normally. Instead, you must cast a paper provisional ballot. Those provisional ballots are counted only after the voter’s eligibility to cast that vote has been verified.
In the case of those who requested absentee ballots but did not vote absentee, that means after verifying that no absentee ballot bearing their name was cast. The intent is obvious: to prevent people from abusing the system by voting twice.
So that means each unused Ohio absentee ballot can potentially generate a provisional ballot. That’s potentially 350,000+ paper provisional ballots.
Now, here are the unintended consequence. Ohio law specifies that provisional ballots cannot be opened until 10 days after the election.
So . . . that means in Ohio there could possibly be 350,000 or more paper, sealed provisional ballots. Ballots which by Ohio law cannot by even be opened until 16 November. Ballots which must be securely stored for those 10 days. And they’re paper ballots which then must be counted – presumably by hand, with all the potential for honest mistakes, partisan arguments, and outright fraud inherent in counting a bunch of paper ballots.
And remember: this is happening in a state that could well determine the outcome of the 2012 Presidential election. So it could well be 2+ weeks after Election Day before anyone knows who won.
“Hey, ho, way to go Ohio . . . .”