Spell­ing er­ror could cost you your vote Amer­i­cans worn out

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

Vot­ing is no easy task for Roland Gil­bert. The 86-year-old re­tired Ohio lawyer, who is legally blind, com­pletes his ab­sen­tee bal­lot with help from a ma­chine that mag­ni­fies the print. So the reg­is­tered Demo­crat was not com­pletely sur­prised to learn he had made an er­ror in fill­ing out his 2014 bal­lot, en­ter­ing that day’s date in the birth­date field. What sur­prised him was that it cost him his vote. Lo­cal elec­tion of­fi­cials re­jected it be­cause it did not per­fectly match his reg­is­tra­tion in­for­ma­tion on file. “It didn’t seem right,” Gil­bert said. “I felt fool­ish for mak­ing a silly mis­take.”

Laws passed by the Repub­li­can-led Ohio state leg­is­la­ture in 2014 re­quire vot­ers to ac­cu­rately fill out their per­sonal in­for­ma­tion on ab­sen­tee or pro­vi­sional bal­lots or they will be re­jected - even if the votes are oth­er­wise valid. The laws are be­ing ap­plied in a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion for the first time this year. A Reuters anal­y­sis found that where a voter lives can de­ter­mine whether their pro­vi­sional or ab­sen­tee bal­lot counts in Ohio. The law re­quir­ing a per­fect match on in­for­ma­tion such as name, ad­dress, birth­date, sig­na­ture and ID num­ber has been en­forced un­equally county to county, fed­eral data and court doc­u­ments show, with lo­cal of­fi­cials some­times us­ing wide lat­i­tude in ap­ply­ing the stan­dards. The dis­par­ity could hurt Democrats in Ohio, a vi­tal bat­tle­ground in the Nov. 8 elec­tion be­tween Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump and Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton. The 14 Ohio coun­ties with the most re­stric­tive en­force­ment ac­counted for 53 per­cent of Ohio’s to­tal vote in 2012 and gave Demo­cratic Pres­i­dent Barack Obama 60 per­cent of the votes he won in Ohio. More than half of the pro­vi­sional and ab­sen­tee votes dis­carded for mi­nor er­rors in 2014 came from five large, Demo­cratic-dom­i­nated ur­ban coun­ties: Lu­cas, home to the city of Toledo; Cuya­hoga, which in­cludes Cleve­land; Franklin, home to the state cap­i­tal, Colum­bus; Sum­mit, which in­cludes Akron, the fifth-largest city in the state; and Hamil­ton County, home of Cincin­nati.

While the num­ber of votes re­jected for tech­ni­cal rea­sons was small in the 2014 con­gres­sional elec­tion, when nearly 3,000 ab­sen­tee and pro­vi­sional bal­lots were thrown out, those to­tals are likely to swell in a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, when more peo­ple will vote. The num­ber of dis­carded bal­lots could go even higher in Ohio af­ter a court ruled that tens of thou­sands of vot­ers who had been purged from the state voter rolls can cast pro­vi­sional bal­lots, ex­pand­ing the pos­si­ble pool of dis­puted votes. A pro­vi­sional bal­lot is used to record a vote when there are ques­tions about a voter’s el­i­gi­bil­ity. Elec­tion boards, split evenly be­tween Repub­li­cans and Democrats in Ohio, then ex­am­ine the pro­vi­sional bal­lots to de­ter­mine if the vote should count.

“There are go­ing to be thou­sands of in­dis­putably reg­is­tered and el­i­gi­ble vot­ers in Ohio who are go­ing to be dis­en­fran­chised solely be­cause they made triv­ial, im­ma­te­rial er­rors and omis­sions on forms,” said at­tor­ney Su­bodh Chan­dra, who has led a court chal­lenge to the laws on be­half of a home­less coali­tion and the Ohio Demo­cratic Party.

A fed­eral dis­trict judge threw out the pro­vi­sions re­quir­ing a per­fect match on per­sonal in­for­ma­tion as dis­crim­i­na­tory ear­lier this year, but most were later re­stored by the 6th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals. The ap­peals court did re­move the re­quire­ment that vot­ers ac­cu­rately fill in their ad­dress and birth­date on the ab­sen­tee form - any vote cast by mail or in per­son prior to Elec­tion Day - but kept the re­quire­ment for the other fields on both types of bal­lots.

The US Supreme Court on Mon­day re­jected with­out ex­pla­na­tion a re­quest for an emer­gency stay of the ap­peals court rul­ing that would have al­lowed bal­lots with those tech­ni­cal mis­takes to be counted. A spokesman for Ohio Sec­re­tary of State Jon Husted, a Repub­li­can, said the 2014 laws were aimed at find­ing a bal­ance be­tween mak­ing it “easy to vote and hard to cheat” and that of­fi­cials were striv­ing to be more con­sis­tent in the law’s ap­pli­ca­tion. —Reuters

The US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion is only a few days away, but for most Amer­i­cans worn out by the vicious cam­paign, the vote can’t come soon enough. “Peo­ple are al­ways some­what stressed dur­ing elec­tions but I’ve never seen it this ex­treme,” said Judi Bloom, a Los An­ge­les-area psy­chol­o­gist. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Har­ris Poll on be­half of the Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion (APA), more than half of Amer­i­cans are stressed out by one of the most ad­ver­sar­ial con­tests in re­cent his­tory.

For months, Don­ald Trump, the Repub­li­can can­di­date vy­ing for the White House, has ham­mered away at Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s poli­cies on health­care, Syria or trade, de­nounc­ing them as a “dis­as­ter” and warn­ing that his Demo­cratic ri­val Hil­lary Clin­ton would lead the coun­try to “catas­tro­phe”. He has also warned that hordes of mi­grants, de­scribed as “rapists” and “crim­i­nals”, are seek­ing to slip into the United States through the bor­der with Mex­ico - where he wants to build a wall - and that mil­i­tants are hid­ing among Syr­ian refugees.

Clin­ton for her part has also gone for the jugu­lar, de­nounc­ing her ri­val as “un­sta­ble” and ca­pa­ble of un­leash­ing nu­clear war “just be­cause some­body got un­der his very thin skin”. She has lashed out at him over al­le­ga­tions of grop­ing women and sex­ual as­saults charges he has de­nied. “It’s a very neg­a­tive cam­paign, with can­di­dates ac­cus­ing each other of ly­ing, say­ing the elec­tion is rigged and it gen­er­ates a sense of hope­less­ness, of ‘this is the end my friend,’” Bloom said. “I get a lot of ‘I’ll move to Canada.’”

Robert Bright, a psy­chi­a­trist in the western state of Ari­zona, said not since the Sept 11, 2001 at­tacks or the fi­nan­cial cri­sis has he seen this level of anx­i­ety among Amer­i­cans. “Just yes­ter­day, I saw a woman who had trou­ble sleep­ing at night,” he told AFP. “An­other pa­tient who is very ill joked that the good thing about dy­ing is that he will not have to watch any more po­lit­i­cal com­mer­cials.” Rather than us­ing cam­paign slo­gans such as Obama’s ral­ly­ing cry of “Yes We Can”, the 2016 fron­trun­ners in the race have played up the Fear Fac­tor which has in­creased voter angst.

“Peo­ple fear for their fi­nan­cial safety, for the na­tional se­cu­rity, ter­ror­ist at­tacks, there’s a fear of the ‘other,’” Bright said. He added that Repub­li­cans es­pe­cially are con­cerned about the fu­ture makeup of the US Supreme Court, where the next pres­i­dent will po­ten­tially ap­point three or more new jus­tices to life­time seats. Added to that, Repub­li­cans are also fear­ful of los­ing con­trol of both houses of Congress and are fret­ting over the fu­ture of their party, which has been left in tat­ters.

The cam­paign has mean­while of­ten sunk be­low the belt amid lurid sex scan­dals and hy­per­bole. Trump has re­peat­edly la­beled Clin­ton “crooked” and ap­peared with women who have ac­cused his ri­val’s hus­band - for­mer pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton - of sex­ual as­sault. He has also talked about the size of his pe­nis and, in a lewd 2005 record­ing that up­ended the cam­paign, bragged about grab­bing women’s gen­i­tals and mak­ing un­wanted ad­vances. “Those words, im­ages, cre­ated a feel of lack of safety for women in gen­eral,” Bright said. “And for those hav­ing had sex ag­gres­sion, it ab­so­lutely trig­gered things, re­ac­ti­vated trau­mas, gave them night­mares.” —AFP

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