Voting by Mail in Ohio and West Virginia

Brian Skinner Elections, Vote by Mail

Vote by Mail

By Brian Skinner, Esq.

In July of this year, Democracy Docket published a report that includes a state-by-state assessment of voters’ ability to vote by mail in the 2020 General Election. As the report notes, the U.S. Constitution makes the 50 states primarily responsible for regulating elections. Consequently, voters across the country face a patchwork of voting laws that vary from place to place. Probably the area that differs the most between the states is a voter’s ability to cast his or her ballot by mail.

In an effort to get the word out to prospective voters about the requirements for voting by mail I decided to make today’s article about voting by mail in Ohio and West Virginia. My current state of residence and my former state of residence.

But first, a disclaimer. Voters should be aware that both states’ vote by mail procedures could change at any time. So, before relying on the information below, check with your state’s Secretary of State’s Office.

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Does the State Let Voter Vote by Mail Without and Excuse?

 

Yes. O.R.C. § 3509.03. 

 

Does the State Pre-Pay Postage for Ballots?

 

No for both applications and ballots.

 

Do Ballots Postmarked by Election Day Count? 

 

No. Generally, all ballots must be delivered by close of polls on election day. However, return envelopes postmarked any day prior to the day of the election (in other words, up until the day before the election) and received through the 10th day after the election will be counted. O.R.C. § 3509.05.

 

Can Community Groups Collect and Return Sealed Ballots?

 

No. A voter must mail his/her own absentee ballot, if submitting by mail. A family member of the absentee voter may personally deliver the ballot on behalf of the voter. O.R.C. § 3509.05.

 

Can Voters Cure an Issue with a Mail Ballot Regarding Signature Mismatch?

 

Yes. A voter has until 7 days after the election to cure (either in person or by mail). O.R.C. §§ 3509.06, 3509.07. 

 

Can Voters Cure an Issue with a Mail Ballot Regarding Other Missing Information?

 

Yes. A voter has until 7 days after the election to cure (either in person or by mail). O.R.C. §§ 3509.06, 3509.07. 

 

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Does the State Let Voter Vote by Mail Without and Excuse?

Generally, No. Voters can vote by mail only if they’re injured/ill, disable or of advanced age, incarcerated or on home detention (excluding convicted felons, etc.), work hours and distance from county seat, inaccessible to an early voting site, personal business or travel (but must receive the ballot at an address outside of county), attending college, temporary residence outside county, serving as an elected official. W. Va. Code § 3-3-1. 

But, on July 27, 2020, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner Currently, West Virginia announced that because Governor Justice’s “safer-at-home order” recommends residents stay home except to engage in certain essential activities, all voters confined to their home during the in-person voting period because of COVID-19 concerns may apply to their county clerk for an absentee ballot. Warner’s announcement indicates that all a voter needs to do is simply select “Illness, injury or other medical reason which keeps me confined” as the excuse for completing an absentee ballot application.

To facilitate requests for absentee ballots, the state developed and is offering voters a free, online absentee ballot request portal for the 2020 General Election. Beginning Aug. 11, voters will be able to complete an application using the Absentee Ballot Application Portal.

Voters who do not have access to the portal may still request an absentee ballot application form by contacting their county clerks by phone, email, or fax. The form will be mailed upon request.

Does the State Pre-Pay Postage for Ballots?

Yes. W. Va. Code § 3-3-5(e)(1)(C).

Do Ballots Postmarked by Election Day Count? 

Yes. To count, ballots must be postmarked by Election Day and the County Clerk must receive them by the start of canvassing (five days after the election, excluding Sundays). W. Va. Code §§ 3-3-5(g)(2), § 3-5-17.

Can Community Groups Collect and Return Sealed Ballots?

Limited Ability. People other than the voter may hand deliver absentee ballots. No person may hand deliver more than two absentee ballots in any election and any person hand delivering an absentee ballot is required to certify that he or she has not examined or altered the ballot. W. Va. Code § 3-3-5.

Can Voters Cure an Issue with a Mail Ballot Regarding Signature Mismatch?

No. Election commissioners may challenge an absentee ballot on the grounds that the voter’s signature on the ballot doesn’t match their registration record. W. Va. Code § 3-3-10(b)(4). The law does not provide a method to cure.

Can Voters Cure an Issue with a Mail Ballot Regarding Other Missing Information?

No. While the law permits counties to treat absentee ballots as provisional for various reasons, it does not provide a method to cure

 

Brian J. Skinner is the former counsel to the West Virginia House of Delegate Committee on the Judiciary and counsel to the West Virginia Senate Minority Caucus. He has over a decade of experience as an adviser to legislators on legal and political issues related to pending legislation; providing research and legal analysis services to legislative committees; and preparing bills, resolutions, amendments, and other documents for the West Virginia Legislature.

 

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. H2C Public Policy Strategists, LLC is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

 

 

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