The Cincinnati Enquirer is reporting today that ballots from fifty-six Ohio County Boards of Elections have been either lost or destroyed. These ballots, from the 2004 election, are only required by federal law to be kept twenty-two months after the date of election, but an Ohio Judge had ordered that the time for preserving these ballots be extended.
Although an order was entered requiring extended preservation of these ballots, a number of counties discarded ballots when the twenty-two month time period expired, primarily due to space considerations. No allegations are being made that the violations of the Judge’s order were intentional, and as such it is uncertain whether any penalty will be levied against these Boards of Elections.
While the ballots in question had been cast nearly three years ago, questions concerning the validity of the 2004 election, specifically the Presidential election and the results from Ohio, are still being widely raised. Additionally, there is at least one civil rights lawsuit still pending in an Ohio Court relating to these ballots. However, with the destruction and/or loss of a significant number of ballots, the allegations made in this suit of improper votes and suppression of votes, as well as the allegations made by others claiming improprieties in the 2004 election, may no longer be able to be verified.
Due to the loss and destruction of these ballots, it is uncertain whether there was any misconduct related to the 2004 election; without these ballots, such questions of wrongdoing cannot now be substantiated. Even though proper maintenance of the ballots would have little or no effect on the results of the 2004 election, the preservation of these ballots could have allowed for verification of wrongdoings in Ohio’s election process that may require correction prior to the next Presidential election in 2008.