For more than a decade, Ohio voters have had several options for casting ballots.
And amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many are considering returning ballots by mail. But changes at the U.S. Postal Service have Democrats and Republicans worried about what might happen with mail-in voting. In the conclusion of a two-part series, Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles reports.
President Trump set off a firestorm with these comments to Fox Business earlier this month about holding up funding for U.S. Postal Service.
"They need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. Now, in the meantime, they aren't getting there. But if they don't get those two items, that means you can't have universal mail-in voting because they're not equipped to have it.”
He walked back those comments a few days later.
But concerns about cost-cutting and other changes led Ohio’s Republican Attorney General Dave Yost to send a letter to Trump, asking him to avoid taking actions that affect this election.
“I’m concerned about this particular election year with the number of people who will want to vote absentee because of the COVID pandemic, it is critical that we have the capacity and the reliability of the postal service to process the already legally available absentee ballots.”
To be clear, Yost is not accusing Trump of breaking any laws. Yost says he’s underscoring the importance of making sure nothing happens that undermines the integrity of mail in balloting.
Michael McDonald is a University of Florida political science professor who works with the United States Election Project, which tracks historical voting patterns. McDonald says Republicans could actually be hurt more by mail changes and confusion. He looked at mail in ballots that were received too late to be counted in the most recent primaries. In the three big urban counties in Ohio, which are largely Democratic, just under 2% of the ballots arrived too late to be counted. Compare that with 66 rural Ohio counties which tend to be heavily Republican where 4.1% of the ballots were not counted – more than twice as many as in the urban counties. McDonald says rural counties tend to have fewer employees and depend on the larger counties for sorting.
“In a rural area, when you put your mail ballot into your mailbox, it doesn’t go to your local post office and get sorted there then sent back out to the local elections office. Instead your mail goes to a central processing facility in a large city then it gets routed back down to your local post office which then sends it to your election office. And so, there’s an extra trip there.”
The best advice from everyone on all sides – if you are going to vote by mail, request your ballot now, vote it immediately when you receive it and send it back early or deposit it at your local board of Elections. You can also vote in person four weeks leading up to the Election or on Election Day.