Election Day is, approximately, 80 days away. Early voting starts in less than 60 days. We need to be ready
Covid 19. Just when you think Republicans can’t get any crazier on Covid 19, they do. Republicans in the Ohio Senate have introduced a bill that would empower local health districts to opt out of directives from the State Health Director. An explicit purpose of the bill is to undercut the current statewide directive that people wear masks when indoors in public places by allowing local health officials to rescind that directive within their district. Republican State Senator Kristina Roegner, a sponsor of the bill, told the Ohio Capital Journal, “If you’re willing to sacrifice your liberties for safety, then you don’t deserve either.” One wonders whether Senator Roegner will apply this reasoning in other contexts, like the repeal of our DUI law.
Absentee ballot applications. The assumption is that many people will not want to risk in-person voting on November 3 and that, consequently, we will have a large percentage of people vote absentee. Several groups are already sending out absentee ballot applications. As long as the nine pieces of information required by statute are correctly filled in, it is perfectly okay to use one of these application forms. Indeed, Ohio Revised Code Section 3509.03(B) says that an absentee ballot application “need not be in any particular form.”
Since no specific form is required for an absentee ballot application, you might think you can e-mail your information to the Board of Elections and ask for an absentee ballot for the November 3, 2020 election. Our Secretary of State, however, says that you may not. Mr. LaRose insists that absentee ballot applications must either be mailed or delivered to the BOE. There is a lawsuit challenging that ruling. For at least the time being, the application must go to the BOE by mail or by hand delivery. However, unlike the absentee ballot itself, anyone can deliver your application to the BOE.
You will likely receive several absentee ballot applications. In addition to the various groups, the Secretary of State has promised to send an application to every registered voter in Ohio around Labor Day. If you already sent an application for a ballot in this election to the BOE, the fact that you are receiving another application from the SOS does not mean your first application got lost. You may think you are playing it safe to send in another application. Please don’t. Multiple applications from the same person create more work for the BOE staff (they’re already very busy) and could delay getting your ballot to you.
Ballot drop boxes. I talked about this in our last newsletter. Whether Ohio counties will be allowed to use any ballot drop boxes in this election is still in limbo as we wait for Attorney General Yost’s opinion on the issue. If Yost waits much longer, it may not be possible for all 88 counties to procure and deploy more drop boxes if he says doing so is legal.
Voting by mail. There has been a lot of false statement about voting by mail. Ohio has let all voters mail in their ballots since 2005. Some states, like Oregon, don’t use in-person polling place voting at all. Voters there have been mailing in their ballots or dropping them at designated places for all elections since 2000. Oregon started using vote by mail for some elections as early as 1995. Several other states use vote by mail too. There is no evidence that more fraudulent ballots are sent in by mail than are cast at polling places on election day. In both circumstances, someone occasionally tries, but the incidence of attempted fraudulent voting has been so small it cannot be considered a genuine risk.
Foreign countries or others could, of course, mail in thousands of fake ballots. Those ballots will not be counted. In Ohio, you must apply for an absentee ballot by providing identifying information and a signature which match your voter registration records. A ballot received from someone who was not issued a ballot by an Ohio BOE will not be counted. The ballot must be mailed back in an identification envelope that also has your identifying information and your signature. Those must also match your voter registration record or the ballot will not be counted. Ballots from people not registered to vote in that county will not be counted. Multiple ballots purporting to be from the same registered voter will not be counted. This will be investigated and, almost certainly, referred to the county prosecutor as a potential crime. The system simply does not have an opening through which false ballots could be counted. Please explain this to your friends and neighbors. Let’s fight the lies about voting by mail.
Poll Workers. These admirable people are now properly called Precinct Election Officials or PEOs. Clermont County still needs a lot of them. I know it is a big ask with the corona virus running rampant. However, if you a family member, or a friend will work in the polls on election day, you will be making a major contribution to bringing this election off without problems.
Voter self help. It is a safe bet that there will be at least some problems with mail delivery during this election. As much as we don’t like it, polling places are likely to be consolidated because we don’t have enough PEOs. Polling places may be moved to spaces that allow for better social distancing. These issues do not have to turn into problems if voters monitor their election. Voters can track their absentee ballot application, track their absentee ballot, and find their polling place at clermont-voterview.boe.ohio.gov. Encourage voters to use this site. If there are problems with an absentee ballot, the problems can almost always be fixed if the voter calls the BOE before Election Day. Please encourage every voter you speak with to use Voter View and please use it yourself.