State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) announced today the introduction of House Bill 309, legislation to fix a problem in the law that requires voters’ absentee ballots to be thrown out if they arrive on time at boards of elections without a postmark.
“There are many ways that Ohio law trips up voters and requires their ballots to be thrown out over minor errors. This bill will begin to undo these unnecessary voting restrictions. HB 309 will ensure that we count the votes of all Ohioans who mail their ballot on time, even if the post office neglects to postmark the envelope. We need to resolve these errors in favor of the voter and count the vote,” said Clyde. “Election officials have explored options to get every ballot postmarked but there will always be pieces of mail that slip through without postmarks. Ohio’s voting laws should deal with such realities, not ignore them and punish voters.”
Rep. Clyde was contacted by election officials from around the state about the need for HB 309. In the 2015 primary election, 19 Portage County voters’ ballots were thrown out because of the problem. Local news coverage of that incident can be found here.
“Our job as election officials is to provide good service to the public, Ohio's voters. We are not serving the people well if the law requires us to throw out voters’ ballots just because the Post Office did not apply a postmark. This legislation would inject common sense into how we count votes in Ohio and ensure people are not disenfranchised for missing postmarks,” said Theresa Nielsen, Deputy Director of the Portage County Board of Elections.
The Ohio secretary of state’s office does not report the number of absentee ballots that go uncounted due to missing postmarks. But the broader category of ballots that were rejected for not arriving on time included 6,096 ballots in November 2012 and 6,670 ballots in November 2014. Some portion of those are ballots that were rejected for missing postmarks.
“The secretary of state indicates that 70 elections have been decided by just one vote in the last two years. Throwing out even one ballot over a minor error like this harms the integrity of our elections and impacts the policies of our state,” said Clyde. “Quick passage of HB 309, a simple bill with a common sense fix to Ohio’s voting laws, would ensure that ballots with missing postmarks are counted starting with the next election on November 3rd.”