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Below is pictured the bottom stub on an Ohio ballot. If you are mailing in a ballot, dropping off at a drop box your instructions are to "do not remove this stub".

What is the function of this stub? How do I know that the numbers and QR (circled in red) are not associated with my name? Is this stub ever removed? If so when? enter image description here

EDITED TO ADD: This picture (below) is of the envelope into which the ballot is placed (so-called authentication or security envelope). Notice that printed on this envelope (circled in red) is preprinted the voter's name and the same numbers that appear on the ballot (28969). It gives the appearance that this number is assigned to not only the ballot but the voter.enter image description here

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  • I would guess to help validate that it is a legitimate ballot. If they got in multiple ballots with the same number they would know they had an issue.
    – Joe W
    Oct 12 '20 at 19:20
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    Not sure about Ohio, but in WA, ballots have a stub that you keep and can use to check whether your ballot has been received and processed. In that case, there is no secrecy risk since the specific ballot isn't associated with your name. I don't know what the situation in Ohio is.
    – divibisan
    Oct 12 '20 at 20:02
  • I think you just have to trust the government that they don't have a database that associates stubs with names. In MA we put our ballots in two nested envelopes. The outer envelope has our name and signature, the inner one does not. We have to trust that the ballot processors separate them without linking the name with the vote.
    – Barmar
    Oct 12 '20 at 20:38
  • @divibisan In Ohio, we are instructed "do not remove this stub", also I have added additional information (the ballot's envelope) where the same # is on that envelope.
    – BobE
    Oct 14 '20 at 3:08
  • @Barmar please see the additional information I have added. Our "inner" envelope has not only our name on it, but also carries the numbers that are on the actual ballot.
    – BobE
    Oct 14 '20 at 3:12
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I work as a precinct election official in Ohio.

  • The stub is there for in-person voting, and ONLY to be removed by the voter just prior to feeding the ballot into the optical scanner (where the ballot is tabulated and stored in a internal memory drive).
  • The stub is collected by a precinct official and put into a envelope ("Stub A Envelope"). That envelope is sealed at the end of the day during the closing procedures, and packed for storage at the county elections site.
  • If there is an issue with ballots at that precinct and an audit is needed, election officials can match the voted paper ballots (also stored, separately) and the stubs in a separate envelope, to audit that the paper ballot was official. A ballot without the matching Stub would be cause to be checked if ballot was fraudulent (for instance, check ballot number against the voter registration, check for duplicate or out-of-sequence numbers.

Ballots submitted other than in-person on election day have the stub remaining. This includes absentee (either mail-in or in-person early voting), provisional ballots, curbside voting. Before those ballots are scanned for counting, they procedures for each of those types of ballots would also include removing that stub and storing separately from the ballot for possible auditing.

As for your concern about matching the ballot number to your name, that is the case for ALL ways for submitted ballots, even in-person. During in-person voting, the ballot number is recorded when the ballot is given to the voter during the voter check-in process (when the voter id is checked, and voter signs the poll book). This ballot number recording has existed as long as I have been working at precinct elections, during the current optical scan ballots, the previous, computer touch-screen, punch cards, and lever actuator poll booths. It has always been recorded. Auditing may involve contacting you to verify the submitted ballot.

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  • Very useful information, to reiterate what I think I understand now, is that until the ballot stub (Stub :A") is removed from the ballot there is the ability to trace back a specific ballot to a specific voter. Since the voter removes the stub prior to placing the ballot in a precinct level (in-person), the voter has full control of the autonomy of that ballot. However, the mail-in voter relies on the integrity of the processing clerks to maintain secrecy of his or her ballot. Do I understand that correctly?
    – BobE
    Nov 16 '20 at 18:34
  • No. The ballot can be associated to the voter from the ballot number, no stub is needed (although both the stub AND the ballot have the ballot number). The ballot number is also recorded with the voter. The stub is used during auditing to verify the ballot was submitted during in-person voting, as the stub from the separately store stub envelope.
    – mharr
    Nov 16 '20 at 19:41
  • Oh !, just want to be sure I understand then. If an election worker/official were to randomly pluck out a single ballot from a stack of thousands, it could be tracked back to a specific voter and the voter's choices would then be revealed (at least to that worker). Is that correct?
    – BobE
    Nov 16 '20 at 22:05
  • Sorry, I meant to qualify that scenario, specifically pluck out a ballot from a stack that already had the stub removed. That what I intended to say. ,
    – BobE
    Nov 16 '20 at 22:09
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    @BobE Yes, as the ballot pages, the ballot stub, and the voter registration check-in all have the same ballot number, an election official CAN trace back to specific voter from a specific ballot. However, Ohio law also requires that ANY handling of the ballots and related materials (i.e. poll books, ballot stubs, provisional envelopes, etc) MUST only be handled with at least TWO election officials of opposite political parties. So I will nitpick your question, and say no, AN (one) election official would not be able to track a ballot, it would take TWO officials of opposite parties.
    – mharr
    Nov 17 '20 at 18:52
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Most mail in ballots are designed so that the security envelope is removed and the stub is separated after the ballot is received by election officials (to confirm that it is a non-fraudulent ballot) and before the ballot is counted. Detailed election regulations usually govern this kind of matter and they very from state to state and sometimes even within a state for different voting methods.

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  • So, for some period of time (prior to removing the ballot stub) election workers can determine what my vote choices are. Contrast that with Pennsylvania, where there are no unique markings on the security (inner) envelope.
    – BobE
    Oct 14 '20 at 23:54
  • If the protocol is followed, it can't happen.
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 15 '20 at 0:42
  • Confirmation that a ballot is not fraudulent makes a certain sense as it applies to mailed ballots. However, to the best of my recollection the in-person ballot also has a stub. The ballot stub is removed by an election worker as it’s being handed to the voter, in that context it seems that the ballot stub is not being used to verify the authencity of the ballot.
    – BobE
    Oct 15 '20 at 1:53
  • @BobE The stub is removed ONLY by voter for in-person voting at the precinct. I have described the procedure in my answer here.
    – mharr
    Nov 16 '20 at 16:30
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    @mharr - regarding my recollection about who removes the stub - I will defer to those (as yourself) who see the process play out hundreds of times at each election! Thanks
    – BobE
    Nov 16 '20 at 18:38

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