So, You Think Letting Everyone Vote By Mail Is a Great Idea?

| November 2, 2012

If so, maybe you should take a close look at Ohio this year.  It could prove quite . . . entertaining.  As well as provide another example of why good intentions pave the road to hell.

Prior to this year, some Ohio counties sent absentee ballot applications to all registered voters; others didn’t.  Ohio decided to standardize their voting procedures.

So this year, all counties in Ohio mailed registered voters absentee ballot applications.  (A side benefit would be to make it easy to vote by mail.)  All told, 6.9 million of the state’s 7.8 million registered voters were mailed an absentee ballot application.

As expected, many took advantage of that opportunity – roughly 1.3 million as of about a week ago.   And as of about a week ago, roughly 950,000 absentee ballots had been returned.

No one knows just how many absentee ballots ultimately will be requested in Ohio, or how many of those absentee ballots will be unused. In Ohio, this year absentee ballots may be requested up until November 3; they must be postmarked NLT November 5.

Also obviously, a number of those who requested absentee ballots will change their mind and decide to vote in person instead.  Based on how many were outstanding a week ago, we’re talking potentially 350,000 or more people who could change their mind.

Now the law of unintended consequences comes into play.

In Ohio, if you (1) requested an absentee ballot, and (2) then show up to vote in person, you don’t get to just waltz into the voting booth and vote normally.  Instead, you must cast a paper provisional ballot.  Those provisional ballots are counted only after the voter’s eligibility to cast that vote has been verified.

In the case of those who requested absentee ballots but did not vote absentee, that means after verifying that no absentee ballot bearing their name was cast.  The intent is obvious:  to prevent people from abusing the system by voting twice.

So that means each unused Ohio absentee ballot can potentially generate a provisional ballot.  That’s potentially 350,000+ paper provisional ballots.

Now, here are the unintended consequence.  Ohio law specifies that provisional ballots cannot be opened until 10 days after the election.

So . . . that means in Ohio there could possibly be 350,000 or more paper, sealed provisional ballots.  Ballots which by Ohio law cannot by even be opened until 16 November.  Ballots which must be securely stored for those 10 days.  And they’re paper ballots which then must be counted – presumably by hand, with all the potential for honest mistakes, partisan arguments, and outright fraud inherent in counting a bunch of paper ballots.

And remember:  this is happening in a state that could well determine the outcome of the 2012 Presidential election.  So it could well be 2+ weeks after Election Day before anyone knows who won.

“Hey, ho, way to go Ohio . . . .”

Category: 2012 election, Society

Comments (15)

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  1. Devtun says:

    Don’t think Ohio is going to be a make or break for Romney…got a feeling from reading thru polling numbers and anecdotal evidence that the Gubna carries the battleground states Florida, N. Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Wisconsin,Iowa,Colorado…this puts him over the top w/ 277 EC count – even sans Ohio ( still think he carries it). In addition, traditionally deep blue states Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Michigan haven fallen into the margin of error in some polls (why would Dems suddenly buy ads in these states otherwise?). Its going to be interesting watching these left leaning pollsters try to cover their ass when Romney is declared winner regardless of Ohio results.

  2. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    You know what sucks? Being a citizen of a state that is solidly Blue or solidly Red. There just isn’t any suspense, no question of the state’s outcome in a presidential election.

  3. Twist says:

    I don’t know Air Cav. I’m pretty stoked that my State’s whopping 3 electorial votes is going to Romney.

  4. Make Mine Moxie says:

    If the race does come down to Ohio, is this going to be as much of a Charley Foxtrot as the Bush/Gore recount? Or will the ballots just be counted until dear leader wins?

  5. Whitey_wingnut says:

    The recount will be done by the U.N. officials “monitoring” or by the New Black Panthers.

  6. Hondo says:

    Make Mine Moxie: Florida 2000 on steroids would be my guess. IMO, that’s something the nation really doesn’t need – but might well get.

    And it will have been completely avoidable.

    In fact, that’s exactly my point. A bit more thought ahead of time could have identified the possibility – and, presumably, allowed Ohio voting officials to find another, better way to accomplish the same end.

  7. Dustyr55 says:

    2-17 Air Cav: Here in upstate New York, the majority of people vote Republican. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter which way we vote because NYC votes Democratic in overwhelming numbers. The last time the state went red was for President Reagan. I feel your pain.

  8. OWB says:

    Hondo, “A bit more thought ahead of time could have identified the possibility – and, presumably, allowed Ohio voting officials to find another, better way to accomplish the same end.” assumes that the desired end is a clean and honest election. What if the intention was to maximize confusion and potential fraud? This is one way to do it.

  9. malclave says:

    @2, @7

    I’m in SoCal.

    My vote for President doesn’t matter… Obama will win.

    My vote for Senator doesn’t matter… Feinstein will win (haven’t even seen an ad from the Republican).

    My vote for Representative doesn’t matter… in my district, there are 2 Democrats on the ballot, and write-ins are not allowed. Not even going to vote in that race, since I can’t decide whether nepotism or skin color matters more to me.

    My vote for State Senator is between the Democrat and Peace & Freedom parties. Go Democrats!

  10. Hondo says:

    OBW: I don’t think that was the case here. I really think the Ohio Sec of State was trying to standardize things as he claims, and simply didn’t think it through thoroughly enough.

    Unfortunately, in doing so he may well have inadvertently put down a few new cobblestones on that well-traveled road.

  11. OWB says:

    Hope you are right, Hondo. But does it really matter? 😉

  12. Ex-PH2 says:

    Found this quote:

    “He who votes does not have power. He who counts the votes has power.” – Josef Stalin.

  13. Casey says:

    Hondo, agreed he wanted to simplify things. Also -for those reading up on it- I think he wanted to head off any complaints about voting hours.

    You see, the Dems and the usual suspects have been screaming “disenfranchisement” because Husted decided to enforce uniform voting hours across the state. In this case, this prevented certain areas ({cough} Cleveland {cough}) from extending early voting times in their precinct. Apparently certain groups cant make it to the polls during normal hours. I know my precinct is open until 7:30pm here in Butler County, but, hey.

    OWB, don’t forget Husted is a Republican, even if it’s in a dedicated “if it’s not prohibited, it’s compulsory,” bureaucratic way.

    I’m not too fussed about this. Yet. Assume the worst, we wait a couple weeks. We did that all the time before instant electronic voting came along.

    Just keep the furriners* out of our ballots, and us Ohioans can count just fine. 🙂

    *especially those UN observers.

  14. Hondo says:

    OWB: probably not. The intent doesn’t particularly matter if this devolves into “Operation Massive Cluster”.

  15. Hondo says:

    Casey: I have no doubt that you in Ohio can count just fine. I just worry that in some places the counting will continue until a desired result is obtained. (cough) (Cleveland) (cough) (Cincinnati) (cough) (Columbus) (cough)

    Seriously: regardless of intent, this was not well thought out. And IMO, the US simply doesn’t need a “Florida 2000 on steroids” situation which strings things along for weeks. That could easily happen if the election comes down to Ohio. Not only will the counting process be questioned, but there will be claims of rigging the requests for absentee ballot and/or the lists of who requested one for political benefit. And some of those claims may well have merit.

    If a situation allows fraud, sooner or later someone will attempt it. IMO, best to have voting on a single day, and make anyone who wants to vote absentee (1) request a ballot via their own initiative, uninduced and unprompted, and (2) justify why they cannot vote in person. That way the opportunities for fraud are reduced to those that cannot be avoided.

    And please spare me the “that makes it too hard” argument. If someone finds going to the polls on election day or requesting/justifying an absentee ballot for good reason too inconvenient – fine; that’s their call. IMO, that means they had their chance and voluntarily elected not to vote.