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NEW DETAILS: Butler County must count votes made via erroneous voter ID envelope

The Butler County Board of Elections must count all mail-in ballots from voters who incorrectly filled out their ID envelope due to the error made by the board, according to the Ohio Secretary of State Office.

The first 20,000 vote-by-mail ballots mailed to voters by the elections office contained a mistake on the voter ID envelope. The form did not have enough boxes for voters to verify their identity only with a driver’s license. Ohio driver’s licenses have eight characters — two letters and six numbers — but only six boxes were provided on Butler County’s redesigned form.

VOTER GUIDE: Check out the Journal-News Voter Guide before you cast your ballot

The board of election sent out 20,000 notices to voters who had the error on their ID envelope. The board on Oct. 15 notified the Ohio Secretary of State’s office of the error.

On Sunday, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted issued a directive that the board must count any ballot returned in which voters only provided six of eight characters of their driver’s license number due to the error made by Butler County elections office.

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“Although it is only a small number of voters who are affected, clearly this was a mistake by the Butler County Board of Elections and not the voters,” Husted said. “Their ballots should not be disqualified for a mistake that was not theirs. To that end, I have issued clear instructions to local election officials that will ensure no voter is negatively impacted by the board’s error.”

The directive is limited to only those voters who returned their ballots and only provided an incomplete driver’s license number on the voter ID envelope that contained the error. Most vote-by-mail voters typically provide either the last four digits of their Social Security Number, or both the Social Security and their driver’s license numbers.

ELECTION 2018: Long line of Butler County in-person early voters casts votes

As of Friday, 180 voters returned a ballot with an incomplete driver’s license number and 139 had been corrected via the notices, according to the board. But those 41 ballots that had not yet been corrected — and any additional ones received due to the board’s error — will be counted, according to Husted’s directive.

Any voter who asked for an early ballot on or after Oct. 11 has the correct voter ID envelope.

In a joint statement, Butler County Board of Elections Director Diane Noonan and Deputy Director Eric Corbin again apologized for the error.

“We again regret that this error occurred which is why we have been proactive in contacting every affected voter to help them remedy this. As part of that effort, we also reached out to the Secretary of State and asked if we could otherwise validate a voter’s ballot and that we not be forced to penalize a voter’s ballot over our mistake,” they wrote. “We’re glad we were able to work with his office to allow us to count these ballots and we will continue to reach out to these voters.”

The error had gained national attention as the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign Legal Center wrote to the board of elections asking they count these ballots. Jonathan Diaz, an attorney with the group, wrote there is legal precedence to allow a “soft match” based on a lawsuit against Ohio in 2016.

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