New Ohio Voting Program Could Totally Screw With Election Results

As crucial swing-state Ohio comes under more and more attention and ad buys from Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and their proxies, here's news of a possible wrinkle in figuring out who actually won the Buckeye State:

A new Ohio program intended to make voting easier could keep the presidential election in doubt until late November if the national outcome hinges on the state’s 18 electoral votes.

Under Secretary of State Jon Husted’s initiative to send absentee ballot applications to nearly 7 million registered voters across Ohio, more than 800,000 people so far have asked for but not yet completed an absentee ballot for the Nov. 6 election.

Anyone who does not return an absentee ballot, deciding instead to vote at the polls, will be required to cast a provisional ballot.

That’s so officials may verify that they did not vote absentee and also show up at the polls.

By state law, provisional ballots may not be counted until at least Nov. 17.

In 2008, about 20 percent of provisional ballots were disqualified.

More here.

After a long spell in the "leans Obama" column, The Wash Post's "The Fix" has just shifted Ohio and its 18 electoral votes into the "toss up" category.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • John||

    How about we just have people vote on election day? If you can't get down there, then maybe you just are not supposed to vote.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Having to pay for transportation to the polling place is an unconstitutional poll tax! And if it's a rural area so there's no public transportation, having to get a driver's license to drive there is a doubly racist poll tax!

  • Atlas Stoned||

    The money I spend on food for nourishment that allows me to get to the polling station is also a poll tax!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Weekend voting.

  • Zeb||

    Yeah. Voting should be on Sunday.

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    How about we just have people vote on election day? If you can't get down there, then maybe you just are not supposed to vote.

    Why not just make everyone vote absentee? One ballot goes out, one ballot comes in. Send them to registered voters and be done with it.

  • Rich||

    How about like filing taxes? Get your ballot postmarked (or timestamped) by midnight Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

  • nicole||

    You know, the more talk I hear about early voting, the more I have been thinking it sounds completely fucking unfair. Am I the only one who thinks voting at different times will have different outcomes, and that the fairest thing is to compress the window as much as possible so that everyone votes at the same time--i.e., so that everyone actually votes in the same election?

    Fortunately, I don't really care about voting. But still!

  • John||

    I agree. We have an election day for a reason. I take issue with this whole bullshit myth that voting is some sort of great civic duty that we should brow beat everyone into doing. You either care enough to go down and do it or you don't. If you don't or can't, that is fine. It is a free country or at least it should be.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I hate the get out the vote (but not for a specific candidate, just...because) effort.

  • John||

    IT is all just partisan bullshit. They only want to get out the vote that will vote for them.

  • ||

    Like me, and the Johnson vote I cast weeks ago via absentee ballot? Didn't realize the LP was such a powerful presence in Hawaii.

    Maybe you like wasting time standing around in long lines to vote. Me, if I had to do that to vote, I wouldn't.

  • Killazontherun||

    Vote or Die.

    What does that even mean?

    Just like it says, motherfucker!

  • Zeb||

    I agree. If you don't know what you are voting for or if going to the poll doesn't seem worth the effort, you really don't need to be voting. I don't see why people think that more people basically voting at random, or based on little bits of propaganda that they pick up peripherally would make for better democracy. No one who really cares about it has a problem voting. They are trying to get more people who don't care that much to vote by making voting easier.

  • DJK||

    How about people like me who have to travel for work? I'll be out of my home state on the date of the election and therefore unable to vote. I very much care about the election, but I have a voting problem. What's the solution?

  • DJK||

    Let's up the ante. I'll only be out of state for 3 weeks. How about someone who is a part time resident of another state for work purposes? How do they get around the fact that they may have to spend all of winter outside of their home state?

  • DJK||

    There seems to be a decent way to solve the issues raised here. How about Internet voting? It could be like an eBay thing. Polls open at 9/8/7/6pm EST/CST/MST/PST. You have 1 hour to complete your ballot.

    That way, everyone gets their vote counted, even if they aren't in their home state. And everyone votes at the same time.

    Or, you know, national popular vote instead of electoral college.

  • Raven Nation||

    And, if you don't care, you could auction your ballot on ebay.

  • Zeb||

    I think that absentee ballots have their place for situations such as you describe. But I don't think that they should be encouraged just to make it easier to vote for people who wouldn't otherwise.

  • kinnath||

    This is exactly why absentee ballots were created. It used to be that you had to prove that you were unable to get to the polls on the day of the election.

  • ||

    I agree. We have an election day for a reason.

    Yes, and in Hawaii, it is so the government unions can get a paid vacation day off for all their workers so they can go campaign for the Democrats who own 90% of the legislature.

  • Randian||

    You're reversing the cause and effect.

  • AlmightyJB||

    "How about we just have people vote on election day?"

    That's racist

  • WhatAboutBob||

    Better TV ratings!!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Those two weeks will be the greatest television in the history of television. And beyond!

  • Scarcity||

    Seriously, I mean has anyone forgotten where they were when they first saw a Broward County election official in bifocals staring at a possible chad??

  • R C Dean||

    So, basically, this idiot SecState managed to totally bollix up the actual voting on Election Day by requiring that all 7 million people who received absentee ballots (without asking for them) are "provisional" voters until its shown that they didn't return the absentee ballot (that they didn't ask for).

    The only remaining question is whether fucking up Election Day was done out of some superhuman level of stupidity and incompetence, or whether that was the goal. If it was the goal, why?

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Ohio says "Fuck you, America!" Hahahahaha!

  • Randian||

  • John||

    Always bet on stupid, espeically the super human kind.

  • Lord Humungus||

    considering the type of 'people' that live in Ohio, I'll have to go with stupidity and incompetence.

  • Randian||

    Didn't Elspeth just point out that 60% of MI's July 2012 bar takers failed the exam?

  • Lord Humungus||

    hey, don't blame me for the east side of the state.

  • Delroy||

    I live in Ohio.

    Actually, the SecState sent out absentee ballot APPLICATIONS to all voters. In order to get an absentee ballot, you have to send in the application. Otherwise, it's assumed that you will vote on election day at your assigned polling place. Unless you go to one of the "early voting" locations.

    So yes, it's gotten a bit complicated.

    You can go to one of the early voting locations and vote ahead of time.

    Or you can mail an application for an absentee ballot (either complete the paper application mailed to you or complete, print, sign and mail the online version of the application). Then when you receive the absentee ballot, you complete it and mail it by election day -or- you can still go vote on election day, but will be given a provisional ballot.

    Or you can just go vote on election day. There may be some complications if you don't go to your assigned polling place.

  • Delroy||

    I completed the online application for an absentee ballot and mailed it in. I'm expecting the ballot in the mail any day now and will quickly complete it (I already know how I'm voting for all the contests) and mail it back.

    That way, I save myself a trip on election day. My fiancee has already done this - her main reason is that her polling place is always crowded and she wanted to avoid the lines.

  • R C Dean||

    That's not quite as stupid as I thought, but it still pretty fucking stupid. It introduces a completely unnecessary complication, and of course was a mass distribution of one of the primary tools of retail voter fraud.

    I'm firmly in the superhuman stupidity/incompetence camp now.

  • Randian||

    I live in Ohio and I haven't gotten a damn thing in the mail other than verification of my polling place / address, so I have no idea what this is all about.

  • J Mann||

    It's the tradeoff between maximizing the vote turnout and minimizing fraud. I can see going the other way, but it's not exactly stupidity.

    The irony is that the Atlantic thinks that even though Ohio sent everyone an absentee ballot request form and allows weeks of early voting, the Secretary of State is actually guilty of voter suppression by not providing Saturday early voting, so you can't win.

  • ant1sthenes||

    I got the impression he was only sending them to people that requested them, but many who requested them have not returned them.

  • J Mann||

    R C, that's not quite right. Here's what happened.

    1) Sec State sent all 7 million voters a form that allows them to REQUEST an absentee ballot, because the state now allows at-will absentee voting.

    2) Of those 7 million voters, approximately 20% returned the form and got absentee ballots.

    3) Of those voters with absentee ballots, about half haven't returned their ballots yet. (Last I heard, the number was 800,000 ballots outstanding, but that was a week or two ago and I would expect the number to drop over time.)

    4) Those 800K or so voters have the option of showing up at their polling place, but since Ohio won't know if they also cast a last minute absentee ballot, they will hold the provisional ballot until the absentee ballots clear.

    I don't think it's incompetent. You can argue that Ohio shouldn't allow at will absentee ballots, or that they shouldn't have encouraged it by sending out the forms, but once you do, the rest just kind of follows.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Home to eight presidents! And Jim Traficant!

    Nick, this is all I'm asking for.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    That’s so officials may verify that they did not vote absentee and also show up at the polls.

    Nobody would ever do that.

  • Hugh Akston||

    This will all end in chaos, followed by a bloody junta installing Warty as the Supreme Electorate of Ohio.

  • John||

    I would be down with that.

  • Randian||

    If he promises to put a mall back in the Columbus Commons, I'll be his purge-happy junta leader.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    You know what was on the site before City Center? Libertarian Party of Ohio headquarters. True story.

  • Randian||

    And bring back old COSI!

  • Mr. Soul||

    I dont remember the LP headquarters but do remember the Centrum outdoor ice skating facility. Old Columbus was great.

  • flye||

    I was shocked to find that California still requires registration 15 days in advance of Election Day. Although if our electoral votes were actually up for grabs, I'm sure these same-day or provisional absentee registration shenanigans would become a moral imperative.

  • Killazontherun||

    Given the Latino KKK La Raza influence in the state that fact does raise some eyebrows. You would think they would demand that to be removed just to stir the shit anyway.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    What happens if an early voter croaks between the time he "votes" and the official Election Day?

    Does his ballot get excluded? If not, why not?

  • R C Dean||

    Of course not. That voter will remain on the rolls, and any votes cast in his/her name will be counted, for decades to come.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    My understanding is that, at least in Ohio, that vote is indeed counted.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    I imagine the Obama camp perusing this week's obituaries at this very moment.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I've got a bad feeling that the Obamaniacs are going to stoop to new levels of fraud. After all, all is fair in religion, where unbelievers are for smiting.

  • Jgalt1975||

    It depends on state law and precisely how the person voted early. Per this article, in Wisconsin the ballot of an absentee who dies before election day is not counted: Wisconsin

    However, per this article, in Ohio the ballot of an absentee who dies before election day still counts: Ohio

    I've also seen article on-line that I can't locate at the moment that says state don't discount in-person early votes, even if the early voter dies before election, because there's obviously no way to know which vote was cast by the deceased.

  • ||

    According to your link, basically that ballot is not counted only when someone notifies the election officials that someone died, which happens almost never.

    Unless, of course, Wisconsin turns out to be in a Florida 2000 situation, whereupon all the absentee ballots will be screened by both parties to try and eliminate such dead voters from the other party.

    Good times, good times.

  • Zeb||

    I'd guess not. They are not supposed to know whose vote is whose, are they? Although I suppose with absentee ballots, they need to have a way to know who has sent theirs in.

  • Pope Jimbo||

    Requiring a photo ID is on the ballot here in Sunny Minnesota. The main argument against it that I have heard is that "it will cost too much money to implement". This is from the same group of liberals that have no issue spending big money on every other program that has come along.

    Here is a James O'Keefe wanna-bee video showing how there is absolutely no control over registering to vote and then getting absentee ballots for your group of fake voters.

  • Pope Jimbo||

    It would be awesome if Anonymous or some other hacker group decided to hack Ohio's voting machines and simply add a billion votes to the totals for each side.

    If you added some absurdly huge number to both sides, the results wouldn't be changed, but you would let everyone know that the system is fucked and open to manipulation.

  • ||

    It would be even more awesome if they added only votes for Gary Johnson, so he won the state prior to the inevitable legal challenges.

  • PapayaSF||

    +1, but add a billion to every presidential candidate on the ballot.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement