Two for One? Hamilton County Investigates Double Ballots

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[Image courtesy of nefa]

Usually, the idea of “two for one” (or BOGO – buy one get one free, as the kidz say) is an attractive proposition – but not in elections, where the idea of “one person, one vote” isn’t just a slogan it’s the law.

That’s why officials in Hamilton County (Cincinnati), OH are investigating why 26 people cast two ballots apiece in last November’s election. USA Today has more:

At least 26 voters from one Ohio county cast two ballots in the November election, but no extra votes were actually counted.

Hamilton County elections officials say they caught the double votes and are investigating why they happened. If voters intentionally cast more than one ballot, they will be referred to prosecutors for possible criminal prosecution.

Preliminary indications are that most of the double votes were not an attempt to violate the law:

In most cases, though, investigators believe the votes were cast in error. They say several ballots involved elderly people who sent in absentee ballots and later cast provisional ballots at their polling place.

“The system worked the way it should,” said Tim Burke, chairman of the Board of Elections and leader of the county’s Democratic Party. “The appropriate number of votes were counted. Whether these particular voters acted properly, they did not impact the election because only one vote was counted.”

His Republican counterpart on the board, GOP chairman Alex Triantafilou, said investigators still are trying to determine why each of the 26 voters cast more than one ballot.

There are at least two cases that appear to require further inquiry:

Two other ballots were challenged when investigators learned the voters had voted in both Hamilton and Warren counties. In one case, a man registered in Warren County cast a regular ballot there and a provisional ballot in Hamilton County. In the other, a woman registered in Hamilton County cast a regular ballot there and a provisional ballot in Warren County.

Officials were quick to point out that none of the double votes were actually counted twice; each of the additional ballots were provisional votes and as such were rejected once it was discovered that the voters in question had already cast ballots elsewhere. [It probably also helped that Ohio had a remarkably low number of provisional ballots in 2014 – more on that soon.]

Stories like this are the flip side to the allegations of widespread fraud that always precede an election; while Hamilton County would likely prefer not to have to deal with problems like this, the fact that “the system worked” is reassuring and the small number of ballots involved is encouraging. I’m not even sure that these ballots indicate the need for policy or procedural changes; when you have enough voters casting ballots, it’s inevitable that some of them will make mistakes and/or get confused.

That said, I think it’s fair to assert that there is a non-zero incidence of fraudulent ballots cast in American elections; but this case, at least, suggests that the number is not much bigger than zero – and the system is set up in such a way that those ballots do not get counted.

You can bet (because Ohio) that there will be a followup story – stay tuned!

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