Vote just once. That was the message from Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose to citizens statewide earlier this week as we approach the general election less than two months away.
Mr. LaRose’s statement was made in the wake of President Donald Trump’s recent speech in North Carolina where he encouraged people who decide to vote by mail to test the system by going to their polling place in person on Election Day to check if the mail-in ballot was counted. If not, he said, vote in person.
The system does not work that way. Ballots are not counted until the polls close, whether they were cast in person or by mail. Voting twice in Ohio during the same election is a fourth-degree felony punishable by a fine and possible jail time.
Mr. Trump has been openly critical of the recent push from Democrat and nonpartisan groups for people to consider voting by mail, especially during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Mail-in voting is a way to avoid lines, avoid contact with large groups and stay safe.
We are concerned that the suggestion to double-vote has given people false information and has created a giant headache for secretaries of states across the U.S. Now, they are busy informing registered voters that there is only one vote per person.
Mr. LaRose was clear, voting twice and even attempting to vote twice is against the law in Ohio.
Ohio has for many years had a reliable vote-by-mail system in place. Now that system is no-fault, meaning you don’t have to give a reason, you can just request a mail-in ballot. Ohioans, in fact, have three options when it comes to voting: early voting in person at your county board of elections office, voting by mail or voting on Election Day at your precinct polling place.
Mr. LaRose advised citizens to pick one, just one. “Ohioans should know they will only be allowed to vote once,” he said.
And if you want to check on your ballot, Ohio has a quick and secure way to do that as well. Just go on your individual county board of elections website and look up your name. The website will tell you if you are registered, the date your ballot request was received, the date the ballot was sent to you and the date the completed ballot was received by the elections board. All that can be checked online from the safety of your home. Voters also can track their ballot by visiting the website voteohio.gov.
Last week, registered voters were mailed absentee ballot request forms. Though Oct. 31 is the actual deadline, Mr. LaRose advised voters to send in the ballot request form well before Oct. 27. Only one application request is needed.
Boards of elections will start sending out ballots on Oct. 6.
Early in-person voting at your county board of elections office goes from Oct. 6 to Nov. 2.
Not registered? It’s not too late. Oct. 5 is the deadline for voter registration.
Once that ballot comes in the mail, we encourage you to fill it out and mail it back to the board of elections as soon as possible. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 2 or dropped off at the board of elections office in your home county by 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3 – Election Day.
Studies show that of the approximate 17 million ballots cast in Ohio, only about 0.013 percent have involved double voting attempts, and those cases usually were people who thought they forgot to mail the absentee ballot or worried it was mailed too late. In those cases, provisional ballots are used and only counted if no other ballot can be found.
A basic tenet of our democracy is that each registered voter has one vote. So, make sure you are registered, select the way you want to vote and then cast your ballot. But only do it once.