Did You Get a Weird Text About Voting on Aug. 8? Elections Officials Respond

“This is typical election year partisan mischief.”

click to enlarge Many Ohio voters received a text like this from an unknown source over the weekend, but elections officials said no one should be contacted about voting after the Aug. 8 election. - Photo: Julie Niesen on X (formerly Twitter)
Photo: Julie Niesen on X (formerly Twitter)
Many Ohio voters received a text like this from an unknown source over the weekend, but elections officials said no one should be contacted about voting after the Aug. 8 election.
Just days before the deadline to vote on Issue 1 in Ohio, Julie Niesen got a text reminding her that her voting record is public.

“This seems vaguely threatening. Phone number doesn’t match anything on Google,” Niesen tweeted on X (formerly Twitter) on Aug. 5.

She included a screenshot of a vague seal layered under the words “VOTING RECORDS ARE PUBLIC” and another that said “ELECTION DAY IS AUGUST 8TH.” With the image came a text that read, “The August 8th election is coming this Tuesday. If your address is [redacted], public records show you voted in 2020 and 2022. While what you vote for is private, whether you voted is public. You may be contacted after the election and asked about your experience.”
“I also voted in 2021, so it’s not even accurate, but it’s close enough,” Niesen said on X.

“I got a text like this too, but haven’t lived in Cincy since 2013,” another user replied.

CityBeat’s staff reporter, Madeline Fening, received a similar text. This one with an image that said, “Your voting record 2020 General Election: VOTED. 2022 General Election: VOTED.”
click to enlarge A mysterious message disguised as something official was sent to some Ohio voters, but elections officials told CityBeat it wasn't from them. - Photo: Madeline Fening
Photo: Madeline Fening
A mysterious message disguised as something official was sent to some Ohio voters, but elections officials told CityBeat it wasn't from them.
CityBeat tried to call the number sending these messages, but was met with an error message.

Stacey Moher, communications and compliance officer for the Hamilton County Board of Elections (HCBOE), told CityBeat the messages were not sent by local voting officials.

"That is not from us"

“It’s not Hamilton County. That is not from us,” Moher told CityBeat. “Although, a lot of what you said is factual. But the part about being contacted is not us. If we were to contact someone it would be by mail, and it would be because something was wrong with something they submitted. You know, you’re missing a signature, you’re missing a date, you didn’t put your birthdate, something like that.

Rob Nichols, a spokesperson for Secretary of State Frank LaRose, told CityBeat the messages weren’t from them, either.

“No, these did not come from us,” Nichols said. “This happens in every campaign.”

While it’s unclear who sent the texts, Nichols told CityBeat the messages are vague enough to be for or against Issue 1, either trying to encourage or shame voters.

“The people who are concerned about these messages, these could even be coming from the side they support,” Nichols said. “This is typical election year partisan mischief.”

It’s true that whether someone in the state voted is information anyone can access — just sift through the county voter files if you really want to know if your dentist, barber or co-workers voted in the last election — but who or what a voter chose on their ballot is never publicly available. Nichols said the state might have your contact information, like your phone number, but that it’s also unavailable to the public.

“Some voters provide that information, but if you go into the voter registration database that information is not public record,” Nichols said.

What is Issue 1?

The Aug. 8 election referenced in the mysterious text messages is a special election that has just one item on the ballot: Issue 1.

Republicans have brought forward Issue 1 to make it harder for voters to amend the Ohio Constitution by raising the threshold of approval from 50% to 60%. The ballot issue would mean that a simple majority, or 50% plus one vote, would no longer be enough to amend the Ohio Constitution. Passing Issue 1 would impair voters' ability to legalize abortion in the state, which is set for state ballots in November. Other initiatives that would be impacted include proposals on marijuana and raising the minimum wage.

The state legislature has never previously brought a 60% majority rule question to the ballot in Ohio. But then again, the U.S. Supreme Court never overturned Roe v. Wade until now, either. At first, Ohio Republicans argued the change was to protect the state from outside interference. But, according to Ohio Capital Journal/WEWS, LaRose said during a May 22 Seneca County Lincoln Day dinner that Issue 1 is “100% about keeping a radical pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution.”

LaRose, who holds a seat that is supposed to be non-partisan, has been leading the Republican's crusade to pass Issue 1 on Aug. 8. He's not shy about Issue 1's connection to abortion rights in his campaign messaging.

"In California, taxpayer money is used to fund abortion-on-demand. Radical liberals like @GavinNewsom want to bring this and other terrible policies to Ohio. (told you so)," LaRose tweeted on Aug. 1. "YES on 1 is about stopping the far-left from forcing their values down our throats."

When and how to vote on Aug. 8

According to HCBOE, more than 89,000 people have voted early so far in Hamilton County: 36,174 in-person votes and 53,096 mail-in ballots. The early turnout smashed expectations for a notoriously low-turnout month to hold an election. The August 2022 election saw only 3,670 early in-person voters, and only 8,651 absentee returns.

Early voting for Hamilton County residents has started and is taking place in one location only, the Board office: 4700 Smith Road in Norwood. All absentee ballot applications must be turned in by Aug. 1. Election day is Aug. 8, and the polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Absentee ballots are due by close of polls.

A controversial new law requires voters to present a valid ID to vote in person in Hamilton County. Acceptable forms of ID include:
  • Ohio driver's license
  • State of Ohio ID card
  • Interim ID form issued by the Ohio BMV
  • U.S. passport or passport card
  • U.S. military ID card
  • Ohio National Guard ID card
  • US Department of Veterans Affairs ID card
All photo IDs must have the following:
  • An expiration date that has not passed
  • A photograph of the voter
  • The voter’s name, which must substantially conform to the voter’s name as it appears in the poll list or in the poll book.
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About The Author

Madeline Fening

Madeline Fening is CityBeat’s investigative news reporter. Proudly born and raised in Middletown, she attended Bowling Green State University before moving to Austin, Texas where she dabbled in documentary filmmaking, digital news and bartending. Madeline then moved to Cincinnati to work for WCPO 9 News as an...
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