Thursday, November 7, 2019

Why, Oh Why, Ohio?

Yesterday, someone posted on Facebook the link to an article from Newsweek about fake sample ballots being distributed on Election Day in Marion, Ohio. The link was accompanied by the indignant comment:: "The only way they know how to win is to cheat."

According to the article, "The sample ballots reportedly looked like real voting ballots but with boxes highlighting all of the Republican candidates." 

I don't pretend to know election law in Ohio, and I'm certainly not about to defend the actions of Ohio Republicans, but I'm genuinely curious to know how this offense, which made national news, is different from the longstanding tradition in Hudson of distributing "sample ballots," like the one shown below, marked up to indicate how a voter should vote.

People bring these ballots with them to the polls and consult them as they mark their actual ballots. In my capacity as an election inspector on Election Day, I've had to stop people from feeding such "sample ballots" into the scanner and check to make sure the ballots people still had in hand when leaving the polls were those sample ballots and not the actual ones. (It is verboten for a genuine ballot to leave the polling place.) If New York State election law addresses the issue of fake sample ballots, I would certainly like to know what it has to say.


  1. NYS Election Law is notoriously weird. Sample ballots are discussed in a number of sections but solely in the context of BoE supplied sample ballots. There is no statutory language regarding mock sample ballots nor marked-up sample ballots. A quick review of the caselaw didn't find anything relevant. It would appear, then, that such marked-up sample ballots are permitted in NYS.

  2. Ohio had (still has) a Secretary of State named Ken Blackwell who is notorious. There is considerable evidence that he is guilty of fixing elections on behalf of Republicans in that state.

  3. Tis disturbing to learn that the notorious Ken Blackwell is still in office.

  4. Dorothy Heyl submitted this comment by email:

    Ohio has a law prohibiting sample ballots marked up to show party preferences if printed on white paper. They have to be on colored paper. New York doesn’t have such a law apparently. Therein lies the difference that makes our marked up ballots legal.

  5. Doug Holst submitted this comment by email:

    These mailers telling people how to vote were a shameful perversion of the democratic process. Where is the outcry from those who were so morally outraged that a couple of Democrats chose to run as Republicans? I’m reminded of Bernie Sanders once referring to the Democratic and Republican parties as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. How can Democrats claim some sort of moral high ground when they use such shitty tactics to win at all costs? Like gerrymandering, it may be legal but is it moral? I love seeing as many people turn out to vote as possible, and the efforts to drive people to the polls are a beautiful thing. But these misleading sample ballots that only showed the names of approved Democrats were disgusting. Where do we draw the line? Why not offer to go into the voting booth with voters and fill in the ballots for them? I’m reminded of William Kennedy’s “Oh, Albany!” when he wrote about members of the corrupt Democratic machine in Albany standing outside of polling stations and handing cash to everyone who voted Democrat. There is a fine line between encouraging people to vote and telling them how to vote.

  6. Marking up sample ballots in this manner is legal and I see nothing objectionable about it. It’s a very effective way to say “vote for my candidate,” and it’s an instruction guide to boot.