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The Election Assistance Commission reprimanded Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell in a letter this week, cautioning the Republican to “refrain from characterizing” an EAC resolution on the use of provisional ballots as a defense of some controversial actions he has taken. [IMGCAP(1)]

Blackwell has come under considerable fire from Democrats who contend he has tried to strip voter rights in the way he has interpreted provisional balloting rules.

The dispute arose when Blackwell directed county boards to accept ballots only from voters in their proper precinct or to direct voters to cast provisional ballots in the precinct where they are supposed to vote.

But a U.S. District judge in Ohio has said under the Help America Vote Act passed by Congress a voter may cast a provisional ballot at any precinct in his or her county on Nov. 2.

As he appeals the judge’s decision, Blackwell told The Associated Press that HAVA “specifically leaves the issuing and counting of those ballots to states in accordance with state law.”

Not so fast, EAC members told Blackwell in an Oct. 19 letter.

“EAC has not and will not take a position on the pending litigation in your state,” EAC Chairman DeForest Soaries stated in the letter. “The resolution on provisional voting does not, in any way whatsoever, represent support for Ohio, or any other State’s, interpretation of where provisional ballots may be issued and counted.”

According to The Columbus Dispatch, Blackwell will “defy the request” and said through a spokesman that he and the EAC are actually interpreting the law the same.

Reform Report. Wondering what the state of elections is in each of the 50 states?, a leading nonprofit that is closely tracking how election law reforms have been implemented around the country, issued a new report this week providing a state-by-state analysis of what’s changed, what hasn’t and where problems could crop up on Nov. 2.

Among the “unresolved issues” that could be significant is the fact that punchcards are still being used in a number of states, including the battleground state of Ohio, where more than 70 percent of registered voters will vote by punching chads.

The report also singles out concerns about the “accuracy and reliability of electronic voting systems,” a national poll worker shortage, and the varied rules on provisional balloting from state to state.

The 62-page report, titled “Election Preview 2004,” can be accessed at

— Amy Keller

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