SCIOTO — The Scioto County Board of Elections wants to assure the public that voter fraud in cases of mail-in voting is not a concern after President Donald Trump has questioned the security of the 2020 Presidential Election.
“We are not concerned about voter fraud. We have a lot of safe havens in place to prevent that,” said Julia Gearheart, director of SCBOE. “I have never seen it and I’ve been here for a long time.”
The president has drawn attention throughout his administration to the issue on his Twitter page but has changed his tone slightly to say it was more of a state-by-state issue.
“Nevada has ZERO infrastructure for Mail-In Voting. It will be a corrupt disaster if not ended by the Courts. It will take months, or years, to figure out,” Trump tweeted Wednesday. “Florida has built a great infrastructure, over years, with two great Republican Governors. Florida, send in your Ballots!”
Gearheart and the board follow a multifaceted plan to ensure the validity of each vote.
Starting Oct. 6, county voters will receive mail-out ballots and can submit absentee votes at the office. Before any of that, SCBOE does an extensive review of the application, checking the name, address, date of birth, identification form and signature.
The board repeats the same process after receiving the i.d. envelope, which can be submitted through the mail, the ballot dropbox in front of the courthouse, or inperson. Ballots are then stored in a vault and will not be opened until 10 days before the election.
Gearheart said the envelopes are scanned into their system then but are not officially counted until 7:30 p.m. on Election Day.
Due to the coronavirus, Gearheart expects mail-in and absentee voting to be in heightened demand. During presidential election years, the board issues 8,000 to 10,000 mail-out ballots and in-office absentee votes.
She expects that number to reach 15,000 to 20,000 this November. 31,513 votes were cast of the 46,388 registered voters in the 2016 General Election, reaching a turnout rate of 68% in the county.
The pandemic already caused a lower turnout in the Ohio primary April 28, moved back from the original March 17 date. Slightly more than 25% of the 44,305 voters cast their votes that day, down from a turnout rate of 42% in the 2016 primary.
“I think when the inperson voting was canceled that there was some confusion with people what day the election was going to be,” Gearheart said. “We processed a lot of mail for that election and everyone voted by mail.”
Shawnee State Political Science professor Thomas Bunting said there are really no benefits to voting illegally and that the costs far outweigh the rewards. Voter fraud in Ohio is quite rare and violators can be charged with a fourth degree, serving anywhere from six to 18 months in prison.
The Ohio Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights stated in a 2018 report that four cases were brought to legal action out of the 9 million votes cast in the 2002 and 2004 elections in the state.
This being an exceedingly infrequent occurrence, Bunting said the main issue that will come from this rhetoric will be falling trust in democratic processes.
“I would hope that our politicians can affirm the sanctity in our elections,” said Bunting, who will vote by mail this election. “We don’t always like what happens in a democratic election. As long as we can respect the process and understand, ultimately that Americans together making decisions, being empowered to make decisions, we’ll continue on a path toward progress.”
Bunting, who studies political theories and American politics, refers to voting as the benchmark for democracy. Upholding this right is what makes the country clicks, he says.
“It’s a process of compromising and bargaining,” Bunting said. “It’s not the most inspiring process, but I think it’s something worth fighting for and worth caring about.”
SCBOE will hold its next meeting Aug. 25 at 4 p.m. Applications for the absentee ballot can be found on their website.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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