WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD), lead House Democratic sponsor of the Help America Vote Act, released the following statement today in reaction to yesterday’s decision by the United States District Court in Ohio regarding provisional ballots:
“Yesterday’s decision by Judge James G. Carr of the United States District Court in Toledo was a significant step toward ensuring the Help America to Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) fulfills its promise. This decision recognizes that administrative convenience should not trump the right to vote in federal elections.
“Fully appreciating that HAVA was intended to ‘enhance and preserve’ the right to vote in federal elections, Judge Carr ruled that no properly registered voter in a county who reports to the wrong precinct should be denied the right to vote for President. The judge rightly found that HAVA was not intended to be an empty gesture that would permit an eligible voter to cast a provisional ballot but then allow a state to render the act meaningless by not counting the vote.
“The judge's decision goes a long way to assuring that this year's Presidential and Congressional elections will be determined by the votes cast and not by the votes uncounted.
“Ohio is simply being asked to do what many states already do without complaint – count the votes of eligible citizens despite the minor inconvenience that arises when the vote is cast in the wrong precinct. There are multiple reasons why a voter may show up in the wrong precinct and it is not necessarily the voter’s fault. HAVA sought to guarantee that federal elections would not be allowed to turn on and voters would not be punished for such mistakes.
“I am pleased that HAVA is accomplishing its goal – enfranchising voters. I firmly hope that the Secretary of State in Ohio embraces what is surely a win for the voters in Ohio. I am truly heartened that HAVA’s clear intent, supported by plain language, is being put into effect and the shadow of the 2000 election in Florida is beginning to fade.”