Last week, Sec. Husted issued Directive 2012-48 forbidding Boards of Elections from performing a common function of their offices: calling absentee voters who have made an error completing their absentee ballot envelope. The directive explicitly prohibits common forms of contact such as telephone and email, requiring Boards to instead send notice only by mail to any voter with an error or omission on their ballot envelope. Yesterday, Sec. Husted’s office said they were aiming for uniformity with this latest restriction. However, his office is actually imposing non-uniform contact methods for absentee ballot paperwork. Boards are permitted by an earlier directive to call or email voters if there is an error on their absentee ballot application.
State Rep. Kathleen Clyde decried the unnecessary restriction on this simple Board task:
“In 2008, Ohio rejected 25,950 absentee ballots, the fourth highest number in the country. Over 1,200 ballots were rejected for lack of a signature. Over 1,600 were rejected for being returned in the wrong envelope. Several hundred first-time voters did not include an ID number and over 12,000 ballots were rejected for another reason according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission 2008 Election Day Report. Now that Boards cannot call voters, that number could go even higher.”
“Boards of Election are being ordered to do things in ways that are less helpful to voters for no good reason. Under the previous Secretary of State, Boards could pick up the phone and alert voters that there was an error with their ballot envelope. Now, Secretary Husted is imposing a slower, less helpful requirement on the Boards of Elections and that hurts voters.”
The absurd prohibition imposed by Secretary Husted means Ohio Boards of Election can call voters whose absentee ballot application contains an error or omission but can only notify by mail any voter whose absentee ballot envelope has a similar problem. The inconsistency created by this new restriction will be confusing to voters. This prohibition is also out of a line with a third requirement: Directive 2012-26 orders Boards of Elections to correct another kind of error – sealing the ballot envelope – without notifying the voter at all.
Said Rep. Clyde, “Any simple mistake, whether it is an error on an application for a ballot, an omission on an absentee ballot return envelope, or a voter’s forgetting to seal an envelope, should be treated with common sense and good customer service to the voter. Instead, we have three different ways of dealing with these simple mistakes. The law does not require this. I urge Secretary Husted to rescind this overreaching and harmful directive and let the local Boards do their jobs.”