During the Ohio Association of Elections Officials Winter Conference in Columbus held the week of January 11th, the issue of ballots not being counted due to the U.S. Post Office not properly postmarking the ballot envelope was discussed. Due to no fault of over 1,500+ Ohio voters, their ballot was not counted for the November 2015 General Election. State Representative Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) has asked Ohio’s Secretary of State to issue a directive to fix this matter before the presidential primary in March 2016.
From: Kathleen Clyde
Date: Wed, Jan 20, 2016 at 3:40 PM
Subject: OPTV alert – Request for Postmark Directive
Dear OPTV friends,
I wanted to share with you a letter I sent today to Secretary Husted requesting a directive that will fix the postmark problem for the presidential primary. Please see below.
On January 29, 2016, Secretary of State Husted issued the following directive:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JAN. 20, 2016
Contact: Peter Shipley, Legislative Aide to Rep. Clyde (614) 466-2004
Rep. Clyde Urges SOS Husted to Issue a Directive Fixing Postmark Problems
Lawmaker seeks a definition of postmark and resolution of Equal Protection violation
COLUMBUS– State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) today sent the below letter to Secretary Husted urging him to issue a directive before Ohio’s March presidential primary to avoid the problems of past elections. Thousands of absentee ballots have been thrown out for allegedly lacking a postmark in previous elections.
See the letter below:
January 20, 2016
Secretary of State Jon Husted
180 East Broad Street, 16th floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Dear Secretary Husted,
I write to urge you to issue a common sense directive on counting absentee ballots with postmark issues in time for Ohio’s presidential primary, when the eyes of the nation will be upon us. Ohio should not be throwing out ballots over postmark issues and confusion about the Postal Service’s process. Your guidance would ease the minds of voters and election officials and let ballots count. There is more at stake than a few thousand votes. While each and every vote is important, the confidence of Ohioans in our election system – with its increasing reliance on mail voting – is at stake. My bill, House Bill 309, would solve the postmark problem but with no hearings on the bill, only a directive can fix this unfortunate situation.
A new postmark directive should address the following:
1) Let election officials know that any mark that indicates the date that the Postal Service took possession of the ballot will serve as a postmark under Ohio law. That could include a Postage Validated Imprint label, which is postage sold to customers at a post office counter, or a bar code that election officials can read with a scanner.
2) Require that illegible postmarks or missing postmarks not be used as a reason to throw out a ballot. Ballots from overseas voters are counted regardless of illegible or missing postmarks. This differing treatment of domestic voters sets up an Equal Protection violation. It’s unfair and could lead to litigation.
3) Permit election officials to use the ballot envelopes that work for their counties, not require the use of smaller business size envelopes. The thicker paper used for ballots will not hold up well from more folding to fit in smaller envelopes and the resulting thicker envelopes are likely to encounter problems with postal processing. We heard from both the Postal Service and the election officials at their recent gathering that this proposal is not workable. So let’s not adopt it.
The Postal Service regards postmarks as a tool to control their revenue stream, not as the key or barrier to accessing the right to vote. The postmark or cancellation indicates to the Post Office that the postage has been used and may not be used again. Election officials need instruction on what counts as a postmark for election purposes and what to do when a voter’s ballot does not get postmarked. Neither Ohio law nor federal law define postmark and this is exactly when directives are needed – to clarify and administer the law.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. With the primary less than two months away, Ohioans need certainty that their ballots will count.