Butler County election officials urge early requests to avoid primary postal issue

Absentee ballot applications processed before start of early voting will be mailed on Oct. 6

Butler County election officials want voters to request an absentee ballot as soon as possible and return them as early as possible to help this year’s November election.

That is meant to avoid a repeat of a United States Postal Service error during the primary, county election officials said. In that instance, 300-plus properly postmarked ballots in the postal service’s possession for at least 14 days were delivered four days after the official end of the April 28 election. Legally, they were allowed neither to be opened nor counted.

“They assured us that we had everything to us, they processed all of our ballots,” said Butler County Board of Elections Director Diane Noonan.

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In order for a voter’s properly cast mail-in ballot to be counted, it must be either hand-delivered to the board of elections by 7:30 p.m. on Election Day or mailed and postmarked the Monday before the election. State law allows any vote-by-mail absentee ballot received within 10 days after Election Day — the official end of any election — to be opened and counted, as long as the voter’s identification is verified.

All 317 ballots received on May 12 were all postmarked on or before April 27 for the April 28 primary election.

Early voting in Ohio starts on Oct. 6, but voters must be registered by Oct. 5. Ohioans can register, and update voter registration, all online. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/FILE

The postal service admitted fault, though Noonan said “nothing explained what happened” outside of a “missort,” according to a letter from U.S. Postal Service Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President David E. Williams to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

“An unintentional missort of a tray of Butler County return ballots ultimately contributed to a gap in the mail flow, resulting in the delay,” Williams wrote, adding the issue has been identified as “an opportunity for improvement.”

Part of the process to ensure ballots are received in time s to call the post office every day, Noonan said. Also, ballots are designated as election material in its postal codes scanned when sorting.

Ohio Secretary of State’s Office officials said Butler County wasn’t the only elections office to receive ballots after the May 8 deadline, but the number of ballots impacted elsewhere were fewer. Geauga County received 26 ballots late, and Lucas County received 13 ballots late.

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State and county officials are encouraging people to request their mail-in ballot soon, and they’ll be mailed on Oct. 6, the first day of early voting. The last day to register to vote is Oct. 5.

“We definitely want people to vote as early as they can,” Corbin said. “We want them to request their application, request their ballot early and we want them to return their ballot as early as possible.”

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, the former Ohio Secretary of State, said his most important message is “don’t procrastinate.”

“It’s going to be an easy process,” he said.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot is noon the Saturday before Election Day, but Corbin said that deadline “sets (voters) up for failure” if they wait that long because it’s likely not going to get to a voter in time.

“That’s a change we’d like to see in the future,” said Corbin

LaRose has said he wants that deadline to be pushed back to the Tuesday prior to Election Day.

If a person does request an absentee ballot and doesn’t receive it by the Monday before the election or on Election Day, they can vote with a provisional ballot at the board of elections office during early voting or at their polling location on Election Day “so we can verify you didn’t cast your mailed ballot,” Corbin said.

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