In Ohio, the State Employment Relations Board (SERB) is responsible for, among other things, overseeing union organizing in the public sector workforce (e.g., firefighters and police officers). SERB has been working on a rule that requires union representation elections to be held by mail, rather than through a secret ballot vote at the public employer’s place of business. Such an on-site election is supervised by an agent of SERB and was the traditional way in which public employees in Ohio decided if they wanted union representation.

Recently, the SERB’s final mail ballot rule became effective. The final rule provides that SERB, in its discretion, may order a mail ballot rather than an in person ballot. If a mail ballot is used, SERB sends out a Mail Ballot Kit, which will include a ballot, a ballot envelope, a pre-addressed, stamped return envelope, and instructions. The regulations provide that there will be a window of 14 days from the date the ballot is mailed for employees to return the ballot to SERB.

SERB’s rule leaves open some questions. For example, it appears from the new rule that an in-person election will be held if SERB determines that, in the circumstances of a particular case, it would be "more efficient or appropriate." How that standard will be applied in future union elections involving public employers and employees remains to be seen.