MLive.com: NewsFlash - Federal judge says Michigan must count provisional ballots in wrong precincts
10/19/2004, 6:15 p.m. ET
By DAVID EGGERT
The Associated Press
LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan voters who cast ballots in the wrong polling precinct but are in the right city, township or village on Nov. 2 must have their votes for president and Congress counted, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge David Lawson nullified the state's decision to not count provisional ballots unless voters show up in the correct precinct � despite objections from Republican Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and the U.S. Justice Department.
Provisional, or backup, ballots are used when voters say they are properly registered but their names are not on the registration rolls.
'The public interest is served when citizens can look with confidence at an election process that insures that all votes cast by qualified voters are counted,' Lawson wrote in his order.
The state plans to appeal to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The ruling affects only votes for federal offices and not those for ballot initiatives, state lawmakers and other elected officials.
Michigan Democrats, the NAACP and voter-rights groups sued Land and state Bureau of Elections Director Chris Thomas last month. They said Thomas's instructions to 1,500 local election clerks to not count provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct violated federal law and would disenfranchise thousands of voters.
The state should accommodate voters who mistakenly appear at the wrong polling precinct or who show up at the right place but are sent elsewhere.