How Ohio Voters Can Avoid Making Common Absentee Ballot Mistakes

In Ohio, almost two million voters have already applied to vote absentee this November. At Common Cause Ohio, our top priority is making sure that voters have the information they need to ensure their ballot arrives safely and is counted.

To learn about how you can avoid making common absentee ballot mistakes that could result in your vote-by-mail ballot not being processed or counted correctly, read on — then, use our sharing tool to send this information to your friends and family members.

When applying for your absentee ballot:

  • First, make sure you are registered at your current address.
  • Next, fill out the application completely, including putting in your date of birth (month/day/year).
  • Return your absentee application by mail, OR, even better, return it to the drop box at your county board of elections. 
  • Track your ballot application, so that you know it was received and accepted.

Ballots will begin to be mailed on October 6th! 

After you receive your ballot:

  • Fill out your ballot fully. 
  • Do not tear off the perforated tab at the bottom of the ballot; it’s needed to ensure your ballot is counted.
  • Place your ballot in the inner ID envelope, and then write your ID number and date of birth, and sign on the outside of the envelope.
  • Place the ID envelope into the outer mailing envelope.
  • Only put one ballot in each envelope! If you put multiple voters’ ballots in the same envelope, they will not be counted.
  • Don’t forget to track your ballot!

When returning your ballot:

  • You can return your ballot in one of two ways: 
    • Put on correct postage and mail your ballot, or, 
    • Drop it in the secure drop box outside of the county board of elections 
    • *Do not return your ballot to your local precinct polling place on Election Day! Ballots returned to a polling place will not be counted.
  • If you mail your ballot, it must be postmarked by November 2nd, although we recommend mailing your ballot as early as possible. To ensure your ballot is postmarked, take it into the post office yourself and ask to have it postmarked. Do not drop it into a mailbox close to the election. Not all mail is postmarked and not all is retrieved the same day.
  • If you are planning on dropping your ballot off in a dropbox, make sure to do so by 7:30 pm on November 3rd.
  • Please note: You can return your own ballot or those of your near relatives (spouses, parents, parents-in-law, grandparents, siblings, children, adopted parents and children, step-parents and children, aunts, uncles, nephews, and nieces). You cannot return ballots for friends, neighbors, co-workers or others. 

Other important things to remember:

  • If you’ve applied to vote-by-mail, you can’t vote a regular ballot in-person on Election Day. If something happens to your ballot and you no longer have it in your possession, you will be allowed to vote a provisional ballot, but we recommend against that, if at all possible.
  • As per a new directive from the Secretary of State issued 9/28/2020, if you’ve applied to vote-by-mail, you ARE allowed to go and vote a regular ballot during early vote. If you bring your ballot with you, the election official will “spoil” the ballot — but bringing your ballot is not required. While it is good that the Secretary issued a clarification on this point, it is still simpler and safer to advise voters to carry through with their original voting plan whenever possible.
  • If you make a mistake while filling out your ballot (and you still have your ballot in-hand), you can call your county board of elections and request a new ballot.
  • Do not panic if you receive more than one absentee ballot application in the mail! Applications are being sent by multiple groups, regardless of whether voters have already applied.
  • If you have not received any ballot applications in the mail, it probably means you are not registered at your current address. You can check your registration here and register to vote here.

It’s crucial that your family and friends have this information. You can play a critical role in ensuring that their ballots are counted in the November election.

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