Mahoning County voters who requested absentee ballots for the November election may be puzzled by one of the instructions for filling out the ballot included in the packet received from the Board of Elections.

A “helpful suggestion” sheet enclosed in the absentee ballot mailing offers voters information about properly completing the mail-in process such as using black or blue ink, reading the instructions, and how much postage is needed on the return envelope.

One of the “suggestions” reads as follows:

“You MUST sign your name in ink on your ballot”


In addition to the fact that a line for a signature is not printed on the ballots, some voters may be concerned that it seems they are being asked to identify themselves on what is supposed to be a secret ballot.

21 News contacted the Mahoning County Board of Elections and learned that the ballot signature instruction is a mistake.

However, voters must sign their names to the envelope in which ballots are placed before returning them to the elections board. That's the envelope that asks the voter for identification information such as their driver's license number or last four digits of their social security number.

The signature on the envelope is used by election officials to verify that the ballot comes from the intended voter.

When the ballot is returned to the election office, election officials have a process for examining signatures and comparing them to other documents in their files that contain the voter's signature. Voter identification and signature are checked twice during the process in Ohio.

With three weeks until Election Day, the Ohio Secretary of State announced that requests for early and absentee ballots now total 943,105, a 2.7 percent increase over the same point in the 2018 gubernatorial statewide election.

Voters should consider these best practices when they choose the absentee ballot option:

Fill in the information properly. Review the form to ensure you have filled it out properly, including writing your date of birth where required, not the day’s date, as well as signing your request form.

Include your e-mail and/or phone number. County boards of elections will be calling or e-mailing voters who may need to remedy information on their ballot request form or absentee ballot envelope. Including your information will ensure you can be reached if your ballot request doesn’t have everything filled out properly.

Don’t wait. To accommodate necessary processing time at the county board of elections and the time required for the United States Postal Service to deliver election mail, voters should not procrastinate – fill out and mail your absentee ballot request as soon as possible.

Double-check your return envelope. Before you submit your ballot request form, make sure the envelope is addressed to your county board of elections.