Answering questions about Ohio’s absentee ballots

Published 6:38 pm Friday, October 2, 2020

Dear Readers: I have received several questions about absentee ballots and the upcoming election.

Instead of writing this as a typical column, I have put them together as a FAQ below in the hopes of clearing up misconceptions about the process.

If you have specific questions about your particular ballot, you may call the Lawrence County Board of Elections at 740-532-0444.

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Are ballots being mailed to everyone automatically?
No. In order to receive an absentee ballot in Ohio, you must fill out an absentee ballot application and mail it to the board of elections. They will process the application, and if you are registered to vote (registration ends Monday), they will mail you an absentee ballot beginning Tuesday.

Why did I receive multiple ballots that I didn’t request?
What you received are not ballots. They are actually the applications referred to above. Many different interest groups and candidates are mailing these applications to voters to increase voting turnout.

What if there is a mistake on my absentee application?
The board of elections will contact you to correct the application. They will not mail you a ballot unless the application contains your name, address, date of birth, and either your Ohio driver’s license number or the last four digits of your social security number, as well as your signature.

I filled out an application, but never got a ballot. Can I still vote?
Yes. First, check with the board to determine if a ballot was mailed to you.

If one was never mailed, you may vote a regular ballot at the Board office during early in-person voting, or at your regular voting location on election day.

If a ballot was mailed to you that you did not receive, notify the board to look into the situation. You will still be permitted to vote a provisional ballot at your regular voting location on election day.

Can I check the status of my application or ballot if I vote absentee?
Yes. You may call the Board office at 740-532-0444, or see the status online at

The board updates the absentee status to show when they receive the application, when they mail your ballot, when they receive the ballot back, and when it is approved for counting.

Will people know how I voted if I vote absentee?
No. You send the ballots back inside a special envelope that you fill out and sign, so that the board can verify that it is you who are voting.

Upon approval, the envelope is turned over so that voter information cannot be viewed, the ballot is removed from the envelope by two employees (one from each party) present, and placed in the stack to be counted. At no point do the employees look at the ballot to see how it is voted, and the ballot is anonymous once removed from the envelope.

I received a ballot, but forgot to mail it back after I completed it. Can I just drop it off at my polling location on election day?

No, but you can put it in the board’s drop box at the courthouse before 7:30pm election day and it will be counted that day, or you can vote a provisional ballot at your voting location instead. You can also mail it back, but it must be postmarked before election day, and the board must receive it within 10 days after election day. To be clear, if you mail back your ballot on election day, it will not be counted.

How long does it take for me to get an absentee ballot?
The board processes applications as they are received, and typically will mail ballots within 2 days of receiving an application.

Thought for the Week: “A politician thinks of the next election. A statesman, of the next generation.” —James Freeman Clarke

It’s The Law is written by attorney Mark K. McCown in response to legal questions received by him. If you have a question, please forward it to Mark K. McCown, 311 Park Avenue, Ironton, Ohio 45638, or e-mail it to him at The right to condense and/or edit all questions is reserved.