Definitions, References & Links

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Before launching a jail voting initiative, you should become familiar with common terms related to voting and criminal justice.

  • Absentee Voting: The process of voting early in an election by completing an absentee ballot form and returning the form by mail to the individual’s county BOE. After completing the form, voters can elect to have their ballots mailed to their permanent residence, or if they are working or attending school outside of the state, mailed to another temporary address. Voters can also vote early, in person, at their county BOE.
  • Absentee Ballots: These ballots are issued to individuals not voting on Election Day. Absentee ballots must be returned by mail or delivered to the BOE by the voter or a relative but not to a polling location. If an absentee ballot has been requested, then the voter must use that ballot and will not be able to vote at a polling location except to vote provisionally.
  • Board of Elections (BOE): According to Ohio’s Secretary of State’s (SOS) office, in each of Ohio’s 88 counties a Board of Elections is responsible for administering local elections, including voter registration, maintaining an election calendar, overseeing absentee voting and managing polling locations within its county. Each BOE is also governed by a four-person board consisting of two members from each major political party and two other appointed officials. All petitions and local ballot issues are also cast with the BOE.
  • Community Control Programs: In addition to probation and parole, individuals may be given house detention and required to wear an electronic ankle monitor. They may also be ordered to a work release program, community service, a domestic violence program, or a drug and substance abuse treatment facility.
  • Detainee: Anyone who has been sentenced by a judge or magistrate to be confined in a jail or prison, or another facility operated by a state or federal authority.
  • Disenfranchise: When the federal, or state and local government, or another independent entity, deprives a person of the right to vote.
  • Early voting: A designated period prior to Election Day where any qualified voter may cast a ballot in person or by mail.
  • Felony: A crime that is serious enough to be punishable by at least six months of incarceration or longer.
  • In-Person Absentee Voting: A process managed by a county’s BOE to deliver and collect ballots from individuals serving time in a jail for a misdemeanor conviction or awaiting trial.
  • Jail: A place under the jurisdiction of a local government for the confinement of people awaiting trial, or those convicted of minor crimes and serving shorter sentences. Most individuals in jail are eligible to vote.
  • Jail Voter Registration: A process of registering incarcerated individuals who have not been convicted of a felony crime to vote in the state of Ohio. Eligible voters include anyone on probation, parole, living in a drug treatment facility, awaiting trial for a felony conviction, or incarcerated for a misdemeanor crime.
  • Misdemeanor: A crime punishable by a year or less in a jail. It is a less serious offense than a felony crime.
  • Parole: The release of an individual into the community after serving a prison sentence. The individual serves the remainder of their sentence under the supervision of the community (i.e. paroling officer). Parolees are eligible to register and vote.
  • Prison: A federal or state institution confining individuals with felony convictions or high-level misdemeanors. These individuals have been tried and convicted and remain ineligible to vote under Ohio law until they are granted release from prison. Upon release, returning citizens must re-register to vote with their county BOE.
  • Probation: A court-ordered sentence of correctional supervision in the community as imposed by a judge. Felony-level offenders on probation are supervised by locally operated probation departments as part of the common pleas court and these citizens are also eligible to vote.
  • Provisional Ballot: A provisional ballot is used to record a vote if a voter’s eligibility is in question and the voter would otherwise not be permitted to vote at his or her polling place. It is also used if a voter requested an absentee ballot but instead showed up at a polling location to vote.
  • Reentry: A broad term used to refer to the transition of convicted offenders from incarceration to community supervision. Reentry also involves using programs that promote the effective reintegration of ex-offenders into communities when they are released from prison and jail.
  • Returning Citizen: An individual re-entering their community after serving a jail or prison sentence. They are also eligible to register and vote.
  • Secretary of State: Ohio’s Secretary of State provides legal guidance, elections procedures and campaign finance information to BOEs, as well as training for BOE members and staff. Directives about election policies and rules are also provided by the Secretary of State.




DISCLAIMER – The information on this website is not, nor is it intended to be, an exhaustive overview of Ohio’s voting laws. Before beginning any jail voting initiative please review the Ohio Revised Code or the Ohio Secretary of State’s website at If you have been disenfranchised and you need legal help, please submit a compliant for review on our Legal Help page.

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Voting In Jail