With coronavirus turning life upside down in much of the U.S., states– and the ailing U.S. Postal Service– are bracing for a record number of voters to choose their candidates by mail.
In Ohio, ballot applications are being automatically sent to all registered voters due to the pandemic. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, has assured that the state’s vote-by-mail system is secure, despite President Trump’s concerns.
Ohio has mailed absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in every presidential or gubernatorial election since 2012. Around 1.9 million Ohioans requested an absentee ballot in the state’s April primary, prompting an outcry when some were delayed in arriving. That forced some voters to cast their votes in person despite health concerns.
For the general election in November, LaRose announced that all of Ohio’s 7.8 million voters would be sent ballot applications around Labor Day. All paper requests are to be returned to the county board of elections office.
The cost, about $1.5 million, would be paid for with federal funds.
Each county’s board of elections office will begin to mail blank ballots to voters who requested them on Oct. 6. Completed ballots can be mailed back by voters or delivered in person to the board of elections office. LaRose pushed for a postage-paid stamp to be included in envelopes with blank ballots, but an Ohio board rejected the idea.
New voters must register by Oct. 5, and future rounds of ballot application requests will be mailed out for voters who change their registration addresses or newly register to vote.
LaRose is pushing voters to get their ballots in as early as possible due to the massive number of people who will vote by mail.
If a voter requested an absentee ballot but decides to vote in person, they can participate in early voting. If the voter requested an absentee ballot but chooses to vote on Election Day, they will be asked to fill out a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots aren’t counted until election officials confirm some missing information – in this case, that the voter didn’t already vote early via mail or in-person.
If a voter did not receive a ballot in the mail, made a mistake on the ballot or defaced it in some way, they can request up to two replacement ballots.