OHIO ELECTIONS New registrations, addresses could cause confusion

Voter registration drives have overloaded county election boards.
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Voter advocates worry that a flood of new registrations and address changes will lead to confusion and lost votes on Election Day.
In Ohio's largest counties, election boards are getting nearly double the number of registration cards submitted in 2000. The scramble is only expected to intensify this week, as the Oct. 4 registration deadline nears.
"We think this will be the sleeper issue in this election," said Kay Maxwell, national president of the League of Women Voters. "Plenty of people can fall through the cracks."
Ohio is so crucial in this year's presidential campaign that voter registration groups are stepping over one another to locate every unregistered resident.
"Ohio's the subject of such a national focus that we're almost drowning each other," said Josh Gildrie, state coordinator for the New Voters Project. "It's absolutely amazing what's going on."
Election boards across the state have hired extra staff members, extended working hours, or both to process cards. Some boards are processing them 24 hours a day.
A closer look
At Cuyahoga County's elections board, Ohio's largest, about 20,000 cards sat in bins last week, waiting to be checked and entered into computers. Director Michael Vu said the board will spend about $175,000 on extra workers to process the cards. He expected to eliminate the backlog over the weekend.
John Williams, Hamilton County's elections director, said the backlog was still about 5,000 last week -- down from 14,000.
"This is an election unlike anything 30-year pros have seen," he said.
Surveys show the majority of the new voters appear to be Democrats, said Dennis Lieberman, the Democratic Party chairman in Montgomery County. Volunteers have called a significant number of the 25,000 newly registered voters in Montgomery County, and three-quarters have identified themselves as Democrats.
Some local election officials say voter groups bear responsibility for the registration backlog because they have turned in too many cards that are duplicates or incomplete, forcing the boards to track down the voters.
Incomplete cards
In Cuyahoga County, for instance, Project Vote and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, worked together to submit the most cards. But they also produced the highest percentage -- about 15 percent -- of incomplete cards.
Candy Roberts, ACORN's voter registration coordinator, said the organization had problems at first but tightened its procedures to reduce errors and possible fraud.
"We can't tell when we meet someone on the street if they're not being honest with us," she said.
Republicans have been critical of Project Vote, ACORN and other groups that pay canvassers to register voters, many in Democratic-leaning areas.
Jason Mauk, a spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party, said sloppy work by the groups has overloaded election boards.
"Our concern is that cases of fraud will slip through," he said. "This could raise challenges to ballots and wreak havoc on Election Day."

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