Blackwell Delay Costs Taxpayers

Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell’s handling of the 2004 presidential election continues to get the GOP gubernatorial candidate in hot water — but its taxpayers who are footing the bill.

As reported in The Cleveland Plain Dealer late last week but largely overlooked by local media, the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ordered Blackwell to pay $64,613 in legal fees to the Sandusky County Democratic Party.

The Sandusky Dems sued Blackwell over his long delay in notifying county boards of elections across Ohio that they could allow voters to cast provisional ballots. Although a federal law was passed in October 2002 that allowed the provisional ballots, Blackwell waited until mid-September 2004 to issue a directive to Ohio’s boards of elections on the matter.

Provisional ballots are ballots for which there are questions about the voter’s eligibility, such as a recent change in address. The ballots are reviewed after the election, and the eligible ones are tallied 10 days after the election.

Although the Sandusky Dems won an injunction before the U.S. District Court ordering Blackwell to send a more detailed list of instructions to the boards, Blackwell appealed the decision and the appellate court overturned it. Still, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s ruling that Blackwell’s office must pay the attorney fees for the Sandusky County Democratic Party.

Because Blackwell was acting in his official capacity as secretary of state, the money will come from his office’s budget that, in turn, comes from taxpayers.

— Kevin Osborne

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