Mail-in vs. absentee voting: Is there a difference in Ohio?

Posted at 5:20 PM, Aug 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-18 09:42:39-04

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio — Political rhetoric is swirling as many states are increasing their mail-in voting options in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.

President Donald Trump has widely criticized the vote-by-mail avenue while touting claims of voter fraud.

While the semantics vary across the country, the terms “mail-in voting” and “absentee voting” are causing major confusion.

“At one time you had to prove that you were going to be out of town,” Lynn Lilly said. “Now, anybody can vote by mail for any reason at all in Ohio.”

Lilly is a voting advocacy expert and said absentee and mail-in voting are one-and-the-same in Ohio.

“The place where it still overlaps is online,” Lilly said. “The Secretary of State’s website calls it absentee voting. If you go to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections website, they call it vote-by-mail. But it’s the same thing.”

In a written statement, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish called President Trump’s last comments about the U.S. Postal Service dangerous and irresponsible.

“President Trump’s comments alone are likely to cause voters to doubt whether a mailed-in vote will be counted,” Budish said. “This is scary, and it feels like there is nothing we can do. But that is not true.”

Voting experts also say Trump’s claims are unfounded.

“There really isn’t any evidence that mail-in voting leads to voter fraud,” Monica Gurbach said.

However, News 5 caught up with a postal worker of 36 years who said the USPS is struggling to stay afloat.

“Mail backing up, low workforce, people overworked and working long hours,” Lucious Paige said.

Paige said for fair and accurate election results in November, something must change.

“There’s been a wrench thrown into the Postal Service processing of the mail,” Paige said. “So that wrench has to come out for the machine to work right.”

If you choose to vote by mail in Ohio, experts recommend submitting your ballot at least a week before Election Day.

“We don’t want anything to prohibit that or get in the way of people exercising their right,” Gurbach said.

Ohio voters can request mail-in ballots until Oct. 31.