Late on Wednesday, November 14, U.S. District Court Judge J. Thomas Marten, a Clinton appointee, ruled that nothing in federal law prohibits the release of names of voters who cast a provisional ballot. The decision is a victory for Democratic legislative nominee Ann Mah, who is trailing by 44 votes in her race, but who desired to contact the voters who had cast a provisional ballot (the provisional ballots hadn’t been counted yet), to assist them and motivate them to complete the provisional ballot process.
Most of these provisional ballots were apparently cast by voters who didn’t have the proper government photo-ID at the polls. Their votes won’t count unless they return to the county elections office after the election and show a proper ID.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach personally argued the case, which is Mah v Shawnee County Commission, 12-cv-4148. He said that if the names of provisional ballots could be known to the public, that would make it possible to deduce whom those voters voted for, especially in a small-population county. For example, he said that if Mitt Romney’s total vote increased by ten votes, after the ten provisional ballots had been counted (whereas President Obama’s total did not increase at all), then anyone could deduce that all ten provisional voters had voted for Romney. This is hypothetically true, but not very likely, and not germane to this particular instance, when there are over 100 provisional ballots.