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Ohio

Ohio has the opportunity to further strengthen its election system by implementing voter-centric reforms. In particular, we recommend that the State pass legislation to expand ballot return options, allow voters to request an absentee ballot online and track their ballot, and extend preprocessing time. Additionally, Ohio can pass legislation to accept ballots with an election day postmark and require that ballots have prepaid postage. As always, while policy is important, effective implementation is just as important.

As of 2021....

No Excuse Required

No Excuse Required

No excuse to vote by mail

Online Mail Ballot Application

Online Mail Ballot Application

Apply for mail ballot online

Robust Ballot Return Option

Robust Ballot Return Option

U.S. mail, drop boxes, vote centers, and more

Prepaid Postage

Prepaid Postage

Postage-paid return envelopes provided

Election Day Postmark Acceptance*

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Accepts ballots postmarked by Election Day

Ballot Tracking

Ballot Tracking

Online method to check ballot status

Signature Verification

Signature Verification

Voter signature verified before ballot is counted

Cure Process

Cure Process

Ability to correct issues so ballot can be counted

Preprocessing

Prepaid Postage

Election official may process ballot before Election Day

Preprocessing

Preprocessing

Election official may process ballot before Election Day

*Postmark acceptance is the day before Election Day

Opportunities

Ohio can reduce costs and increase voter convenience by creating a permanent absentee voting list, on which voters can sign up to automatically be sent an absentee ballot for each election without having to re-apply. States experience significant savings by cutting down on the requests they need to process.
Creating an online portal for voters to request an absentee ballot that feeds directly into the voter registration system is an important step to help verify addresses, collect contact information, and to remove administrative steps to process a large amount of requests. We encourage an integrated process that allows new voters to register and for current voters to make changes to their address and make requests for ballots in a seamless manner.
Guaranteeing prepaid postage is a voter-centric reform that also removes an economic barrier to voting.
Expanding the use of secure drop boxes as another method for voters to return ballots is a cost-effective way to reduce strain on the postal system, and boxes are sometimes a preferred method by voters who want an extra bit of reassurance that their ballot makes it to the elections office on time. We highly recommend including provisions to allow for ballots to be received at polling places, vote centers, and drop boxes, as well as other locations deemed necessary by the clerk.
We highly recommend creating vote centers, or polling locations where any voter in the county can vote. This is a way to streamline the system so over time, as the share of the vote cast by mail increases, counties can have fewer overall polling locations, while individual voters will have more voting location options.
Accepting ballots with Election Day postmarks is a best practice to ensure that voters are given all options to vote their ballot in a timely manner. Current law allows for ballots accepted if postmarked by the day before the election, but accepting Election Day postmarks is estimated in most jurisdictions to decrease ballot rejection rates by half. We recommend that not only does a state allow the physical postmark on a ballot, but also to integrate into the USPS system for electronic postmarks to serve as validation that a ballot was mailed on time.
Ballot tracking software such as Ballot Scout or BallotTrax can be a very cost-effective tool to improve Ohio’s current ballot tracking system. An expanded notification system helps keep rejection rates low and increases voter confidence and participation.
Processing mail ballots to get them ready for counting before election day will help Ohio get faster election results. Ohio has an unspecified period of preprocessing, which the state should expand to at least 7 days before election day.
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Recent Legislation

As of August, 16 2021

Ohio did not pass any key election legislation in 2020, however a variety of bills were proposed in both the House and the Senate to advance Ohio’s mail ballot system including a bill to establish a an online portal for absentee ballot requests and a bill that would have mailed a ballot to all voters in the November 2020 election (the latter bill was passed in the House, but not the Senate). Ohio also saw some movement regarding drop boxes. Ultimately, after a statement from the Governor imposing a one drop box per county limit, it was determined that drop boxes could be implemented at the discretion of counties and that there was no limit.

The only mail voting related provisions to be enacted so far in 2021 were ones hidden in the appropriation bill (HB110) to limit the autonomy of local election officials. However, the Legislature still has the opportunity to do so. It is currently considering legislation related to automatic voter registration, drop boxes, and absent voting generally.