October 22, 2020

How to Vote in a Pandemic for Dummies

There’s a lot of uncertainties that students have about voting. Fortunately, The Chimes has you covered.

In case you have been living under a rock for most of 2020, you already know that there is a pandemic that is wreaking havoc on our country. Of course, this pandemic has come just in time for the 2020 Presidential Election.

In this short piece we will discuss how to register to vote, how to vote (both by mail and in person) and also how secure voting will be this year. 

The first thing to cover is, who is eligible to vote? 

Almost all U.S. citizens above the age of 18 are eligible to vote. The main exception to this rule is if you’re a convicted felon. Even then, this varies on a state-by-state basis. Otherwise, as long as you are a legal U.S. citizen (whether born or naturalized) above the age of 18, you are eligible to vote! 

Photo from Britannica’s Pro/Con website.

So what is all this talk about “registering to vote?” In most U.S. states (including Ohio) citizens must register to vote in the election. 

It does not matter if they are voting in person or by mail, they must register before they vote. Registering to vote is very easy in the modern era. There are plenty of websites you can go to and register. The most obvious website is the Ohio Secretary of State’s website. Before registering make sure you have the following information: 

  • Ohio driver’s license or Ohio identification card number
  • Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Address
  • Last four digits of your Social Security number

If you do not have this information there is a link to fill out a paper form to register to vote. Even if you have voted recently you should go to the Sec of State’s website and make sure you are still registered to vote. You can check by going to: https://voterlookup.ohiosos.gov/voterlookup.aspx 

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court held up the constitutionality of voter purges. In other words, it is a legal practice to take away someone’s registration if they do not vote regularly. This is why you should always check your registration status before voting. If you are not registered but you thought you were, simply register to vote.

While checking your registration status you can also see on the same page where your voting precinct is located if you plan to vote in person. You must register to vote no later than Oct. 5, 2020.

After you register, make a plan to vote. Due to the pandemic, everyone should have the choice to vote by mail (absentee ballot) or in person. 

If you are voting by mail, you have to request an absentee ballot. Unfortunately, this is rather difficult. Unlike registering to vote, you can’t request a ballot online. The Ohio Secretary of State (SOS)  is sending out absentee ballot request forms to all voters. 

If you do not receive one soon, go to the SOS website and you can either print off an absentee ballot request form or you can request one to be mailed to you. Once you receive your request form, you must fill that out, put a stamp on it and mail it via the USPS (I know, it seems archaic does it not?) 

At that point you will wait for the SOS office to process your request. Once that is done, you will receive, through the mail, an absentee ballot. Make sure to read the ballot carefully as any errors may void your vote. Once you have properly filled out your ballot, make sure it is stamped and then you can either send it via the mail or find a ballot drop at your local Board of Elections office to drop it off at yourself. It must be postmarked by Nov. 2.

There has been recent doubt casted upon the safety of voting by mail. The truth of the matter is that voter fraud is rare, whether in person or by mail. 

According to the “Brennan Center for Justice,” a nonpartisan law and policy institute, the estimated rate of voter fraud in the U.S. is between 0.00004-0.00009%. 

The state of Oregeon has held all mail-in elections for 20 years. In those 20 years, there have only been 14 fraudulent votes attempted by mail, according to the BBC. And in the last 20 years, “The Heritage Foundation”, which is a right wing think-tank, has only found 1,200 potential cases of voter fraud. The facts would suggest that voting by mail is indeed safe. 

But let’s say you still don’t trust mail in voting, or you just really enjoy voting by person, you still can! In person voting in the state of Ohio begins on Oct. 6 and continues through Nov. 3. 

During that span of time, voters can travel to their county Board of Elections and vote early in person; so long as they are registered to vote. Voters are encouraged to vote early, especially this year in order to combat long lines and large crowds. 

If Election Day comes and you still haven’t voted, then you can still vote the old fashioned way. Make sure you know where your polling precinct is, head there, and vote.

If you request an absentee ballot but then decide to vote in person, do note that your ballot will be cast as a provisional ballot. This means your vote will not count until the board of elections can ensure that you did not attempt to vote both by mail and in person. If you do try to vote by mail and in person, this is illegal. 

It’s important also to know that this election may be very different to most of our recent elections. Perhaps the closest comparison is the 2000 Bush v. Gore election. 

In the 2016 election it was not clear on election night who the President was. It is likely that this occurs in 2020, as it could take days, or even weeks to count all mail in ballots and square away all provisional ballots. 

If you are young and healthy, make sure you look into becoming a poll worker. This is a paid position that includes training. You can sign up also at SOS website. 

  • J.J. is a Junior Political Science major and a Political Correspondent for The Chimes. J.J. served in the Capital University Student Government and has helped on different political campaigns. You can email him at jprice3@capital.edu.

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