Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Ohio State Issue 2

Here’s the official ballot language:

State Issue 2 - Certified Ballot Language
November 8, 2005

(Proposed by Initiative Petition)

To adopt Section 6 of Article XVII of the Constitution of the State of Ohio.

In order to expand to all electors the choice to vote by absentee ballot in all elections, this amendment would:

  • Provide that any person qualified to vote in an election is entitled during the thirty-five days prior to the election to receive and to cast a ballot by mail or in person at the county board of elections or additional location designated by the board. No reason for casting such a ballot shall be required. When a ballot is mailed to an elector, the county board of elections shall also provide a pre-addressed, postage pre-paid envelope for returning the ballot to that county board of elections.
  • An elector to whom a ballot has been mailed, but which has not been received by the issuing county board of elections prior to the election, may cast a provisional ballot on election day. If the elector’s first ballot is received by the tenth day following the election, the provisional ballot shall not be counted. A ballot which is received by the issuing board by mail no later than the tenth day following the election shall be treated as timely cast if it contains a postmark not later than the day of the election.

In short, the amendment gives any voter the ability to request an absentee ballot for any reason, or no reason at all, up to thirty-five days prior to an election. On the surface, this isn’t a bad idea at all. We all want to cast the largest berth in getting people to be involved in the election process. Why not just give ballots to folks who request them?

Consider a New York Times piece from September, 2004:

In the four years since the last presidential election, prosecutors have brought criminal cases in at least 15 states for fraud in absentee voting. One case resulted in the conviction of a voting-rights activist this year for forging absentee ballots in a Wisconsin county race. In another case, a Republican election worker in Ohio was charged with switching the votes of nursing-home residents in the 2000 presidential race. And last year in Michigan, three city council members pleaded guilty in a vote-tampering case that included forged signatures and ballots altered by white-out.

What must be weighed is whether the desire to have as many people vote is worth the possible wide-spread fraud that could take place. We have only seen small-scale fraud in most cases up to this point, thankfully. Perhaps is would only stay there. Perhaps not.

TomPaine.com, no Republican site by a longshot, commented in the last election cycle:

Those who mail in ballots are very trusting souls. Here's how your trust is used. In the August 31 primaries in Florida, Palm Beach Elections Supervisor Theresa LePore (a.k.a. Madame Butterfly Ballot) counted 37,839 absentee votes. But days before, her office told me only 29,000 ballots had been received. When this loaves-and-fishes miracle was disclosed, she was forced to recount, cutting the tally to 31,138.


If we as voters are to widen the scope of absentee voting, I would hope that additional law would be put in place to safeguard the viability of those votes. This is extremely hard to do as there is no true assurance that the person to whom the ballot is sent is the person who is actually filling it out. This is the inherent failure in the system, and it exists today. What Issue 2 could do is make that failure in the system much more obvious.

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