This topic is monitored by Moritz Law Professor Daniel Tokaji
The Ohio Revised Code prohibits a wide variety of types of election-related misconduct that may occur before an election, on Election Day, or after an election. These election offenses may include misconduct that is intended by the voter, such as selling one’s vote or double voting. Another type of misconduct is seeking to affect the outcome of an election regardless of the votes of the majority of the voters, such as destroying or tampering with ballots or voting machines.
In Ohio, penalties for election offenses range from minor misdemeanors (punishable by a fine of no more than $150) to fourth-degree felonies (punishable by a mandatory six to eighteen month imprisonment and an optional fine of not more than $5,000). The most serious penalties are reserved for bribery, vote selling, serious misconduct by board of elections personnel, illegal voting, and inducing illegal voting. These types of conduct can clearly affect the outcome of an election and are punished with prison time, and in some cases include disenfranchisement for a period of time (selling votes) or forfeiture of office (bribery)
What remains to be seen is whether current election law is flexible enough to regulate new activities that may influence the outcome of the election. For example, would there be a penalty if an election worker who knows that Ohio provisional ballots cast outside the voter’s correct precinct will not be counted and yet provides a provisional ballot to a voter from outside the precinct? Is there a penalty for failing to require identification mandated by the Help America Vote Act and thus possibly permitting an unqualified person to vote?
Of course, in the election context penalties must function as a deterrent. A person who is wrongly disenfranchised or a vote that is illegally cast can impact the outcome of an election, with perhaps no retroactive means to undo the harm even under the contest procedure available in Ohio. link to contest entry
[Posted October 16, 2004]