"ACORN Strikes again !

More than 27,000 provisional ballots, needed to call the closest congressional race in the country, will wait for either a court ruling today or a tiebreaker vote Tuesday from Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.

The Franklin County Board of Elections split along party lines in a stalemate last night that will temporarily delay counting those provisional ballots. But the board still expects to reveal and certify the official election results on Nov. 25.

By then, it will have direction from either a court or Brunner. At issue is the outcome of the 15th Congressional District race, in which Republican Steve Stivers leads Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy by fewer than 400 votes. Races for two Ohio House seats, in the 19th and 20th districts, also are too close to call.

The two Republican members of the elections board are backed by an opinion from county Prosecutor Ron O'Brien, also a Republican, who told them that about 1,000 provisional ballots are blatantly flawed and shouldn't be counted.

Those ballots lack the voter's signature, printed name or proof of identification, such as a driver's license number.

"It is crystal clear the deficiency which under the law would disqualify this ballot," said Doug Preisse, chairman of the elections board and the Franklin County GOP.

But Brunner, a Democrat, argues that state law does not require voters to both print and sign their names on the provisional-ballot envelopes or complete an affirmation statement for a ballot to be counted, as long as the board can confirm the identity and eligibility of the voter.

On behalf of Stivers' campaign, two county voters filed a lawsuit Thursday in the all-Republican Ohio Supreme Court seeking an order that the provisional ballots in dispute not be counted.

Yesterday, Brunner had the case removed to federal court and consolidated with a pending 2006 case that deals with provisional ballots. It is being handled by U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley, who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton.

Marbley has called a 9 a.m. hearing for today on a request to have the case sent back to the Ohio Supreme Court to decide, or for a temporary order to halt any processing of provisional ballots until the legal dispute is resolved.

The state's highest court issued a ruling yesterday saying it might suspend its rules and take action if Marbley sends the case back.