I got my absentee ballot this week for the coming general election in November. Checking out the document and filling it out reminded me of a point about the process I wanted to make. Although it’s great people in Ohio can vote absentee without a reason, the powers that be – namely the Republicans – don’t like absentee voting and put obstacles in the way. One obstacle – postage – can be seen as a de facto poll tax and is unfair to poor people.
Here is an image of my ballot return envelope:
There is a square in the corner that says Affix Sufficient Postage Post Office will not deliver without correct postage.
Here is an image showing my ballot return instruction sheet. It tells me to make sure to put $1.19 postage on the envelope.
So, I am being charged $1.19 to exercise my right to vote. I know I can also take the completed ballot and drop it off at the Board of Elections in person but the cost in gas and time would be similar as mailing.
Why doesn’t the government send me a pre-paid envelope to return my ballot?
Ohio law was changed to prohibit it. Senate Bill 205 was signed into law by Governor Kasich in February.
Sec. 3509.03 (I) A board of elections that mails an absent voter’s ballot application to an elector under this section shall not prepay the return postage for that application.
Sec. 3509.04 (B) A board of elections that mails or otherwise delivers absent voter’s ballots to an elector under this section shall not prepay the return postage for those ballots.
SB 205 also prohibited the sending out of unsolicited absentee ballot applications.
The argument used at the time was that since not every Board of Elections was doing it then none of them should be allowed to do it.
As the ACLU said at the time:
Only allowing specific public officials to mail absentee ballot applications in even-numbered election years if the funds are approved by legislators creates several issues. This causes confusion as voters are unlikely to keep track of when they will or will not receive an application. Voters need certainty when it comes to receiving absentee ballot materials. Moreover, leaving voters subject to the whims of legislators or availability of funds further exasperates the situation. Democracy should not suffer due to a budget crisis. If the goal really is to enfranchise as many voters as possible, government officials would send absentee ballot applications for every election.
But that is Secretary of State Husted and the Ohio GOP’s SOP – a race to the bottom to restrict ballot access under the cover of “fairness”.