Mailbag: I requested an absentee ballot. Can I change my mind?

By: - October 2, 2020 12:30 am

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Unlike Chris Wallace, our brilliant Ohio Capital Journal readers get the privilege of having a mute button. Just don’t use it on me. 

It’s time for another edition of the Mailbag:

Got a question about Ohio politics? Send them to [email protected] or tweet them to @tylerjoelb.

If you request a mail-in ballot, can you change your mind and vote early in person?

@trevin_flick, on Twitter.

Answer: Yes.

More than 2 million Ohioans have already requested an absentee ballot, which is far ahead of the pace from the presidential election just four years ago. Many Ohioans are voting absentee as a safety precaution due to the pandemic, while others do so out of convenience and to get their ballots in early.

It stands to reason that at least a few of those 2 million will, for whatever reason, change their minds.

This voting sticker, designed by student Emily Legg, was chosen in May to be the new sticker in Ohio. Photo courtesy the Secretary of State’s Office.

Thankfully, the Ohio voting system accounts for this. When Secretary of State Frank LaRose boasts that Ohio gives citizens a variety of ways to cast their ballots, this is the sort of scenario he is talking about.

If you have already sent in your absentee ballot request but choose to vote early in person at your county’s board of elections office, that is fine. You will cast a normal ballot there and ignore the one mailed to you.

If you choose to vote in person on Election Day, that is also fine — but in this case you will cast a provisional ballot. After Nov. 3, elections officials will go back through these provisional ballots to determine their eligibility. So long as you are a valid registered voter, the ballot will be counted. 

Much like family photos I will have a serious take and then a silly one. When’s the last time a sitting Ohio politician under investigation, not named Traficant, ran for re-election? What’s the next arbitrary item destined for the “State Official” designation?

@winzigpedia, on Twitter

Let’s take the politician question first. 

The initial obvious answer is Larry Householder, who not only is running for reelection while on trial for racketeering but stands a very good chance of winning. (He’s unopposed on the ballot and faces only a slate of write-in challengers.)

For insight on any other examples, I turned to my reporter friend Vince Guerrieri, who has chronicled many a scandal in his years living and writing in Northern Ohio.

“Any number of Youngstown elected officials fit the bill,” Guerrieri said, referring to the city’s notorious history.

Guerrieri noted Congressman Bob Ney ran for reelection while under investigation for part of 2006. Ney eventually dropped out of the race, however, and resigned from his seat. He was convicted of corruption charges a few months later and served time in prison.

By the way, Guerrieri’s piece in POLITICO about Jim Traficant is a must-read.

Rep. Darrel Kick, R-Loudonville

As for the “State Official” designation question … so far as I can tell, there are four bills pending in the Ohio legislature that seek to designate X as the official Y of Ohio.

Let’s quickly run through them:

  • Rep. Darrel Kick, R-Loudonville, wants to designate the monarch butterfly as the official state butterfly. 
  • Rep. Tavia Galonski, D-Akron, wants to designate the All-American Soap Box Derby as the official state gravity racing program, and wants to designate apple cider as the official state beverage. 
  • Reps. Jessica Miranda, D-Forest Park, and Brigid Kelly, D-Cincinnati, want to designate the sugar cookie as the official state cookie. 

Many of these designation bills stem from local school projects in lawmakers’ home districts, with students learning “how a bill becomes law.” 

With respect to Reps. Miranda and Kelly, I would prefer white macadamia nut cookies be the official state cookie. But that’s neither here nor there. 

Rep. Tavia Galonski, D-Akron

What repercussions if any will the boo-fest DeWine and Husted received at Trump’s Dayton rally have on ongoing Statehouse dynamics?

– @LeemanKessler, on Twitter.

Answer: Not much, I imagine.

Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted have both been vocal advocates for wearing masks during the pandemic. Comparatively, Trump has offered mixed statements about the effectiveness and usefulness of masks over the course of 2020.

There is a large segment of Trump’s base which view masks — or at least the enforcement of wearing masks, as Ohio has — as unnecessary and indicative of government overreach. That played out in Dayton last week, when Husted was booed after encouraging Trump supporters to wear masks.

DeWine did not require rally-goers to wear masks, despite a mandate in effect for public gatherings, citing First Amendment exemptions. He played down the significance of the anti-mask heckling, noting that COVID-19 has stirred passionate feelings in Ohioans and that he hoped people would eventually be convinced to wear them.

As for the Statehouse, I don’t think this changes much. Republicans already felt emboldened enough to speak critically about the DeWine administration’s response to the pandemic before this rally incident. The latest bill targeting the governor and Ohio Department of Health was announced days before the rally and features many of the same lawmakers who have supported similar legislation in previous months. 

Got a question about Ohio politics? Send them to [email protected] or tweet them to @tylerjoelb.

Reading material:

FirstEnergy says it didn’t have ‘strategic direction’ of nuclear plants during bailout scandal – Reporter Marty Schladen continues to follow the House Bill 6 scandal, and in this update writes about FirstEnergy’s attempts to distance itself from the ensuing controversy. 

The CDC sent Ohio a broken COVID-19 test kit in February, letting a virus run wild – Unbeknownst to Ohioans and health experts, the pandemic was already underway here during the early months of 2020, reporter Jake Zuckerman wrote in this must-read article.

Legislators pushing for education funding before end of general assembly – Time is running out for the state legislature to address school funding before the end of this term, but reporter Susan Tebben writes that Speaker Bob Cupp is committed to making it happen before the end of 2020. 

Cleveland debate: Fact checking claims from Trump, Biden – The opening presidential debate had plenty of fireworks and dubious claims, I wrote in this fact check article.

Control over the federal courts is about raw political power, nothing more – Editor David DeWitt writes about the contentious Supreme Court battle in Washington, D.C. 

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Tyler Buchanan
Tyler Buchanan

Tyler Buchanan is an award-winning journalist who has covered Ohio politics and government for the past decade. A Bellevue native and graduate of Bowling Green State University, he most recently spent 6 1/2 years as a reporter and editor of The Athens Messenger and Vinton-Jackson Courier newspapers. He is a member of the BG News Alumni Society Board and was a 2019 fellow in the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism.