Some Butler County votes won’t count after postmark issues

More than 120 ballots have gone uncounted in Butler County elections this year because the United States Post Office did not stamp a post office mark on the envelopes received after Election Day.

In fact, the post office didn’t include any type of marking on the 123 envelopes — 60 in the Nov. 7 election and 63 in the May 8 primary — said county election officials.

Butler County Elections Director Diane Noonan and Deputy Director Eric Corbin said they reached out to the post office in the spring, but it’s something the elections office can’t control.

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“We will continue to track the number of ballots affected by this issue and work with the Postal Service to make sure this does not happen in the future,” Corbin said.

According to the Ohio Secretary of State, the state’s chief elections official, if an absentee ballot has no postmark, “the board must reject it.” The Secretary of State also allows boards of election to count a ballot if the envelope has a florescent sorting bar code — all boards have a scanner to read those codes.

Those 123 Butler County ballots didn’t have any of those markings, which included Hamilton resident Anthony Chambers, who told the Journal-News the issue is concerning.

“I just assumed it would have been postmarked because you took it to the post office,” he said. “How are we supposed to know the post office isn’t going to postmark our stuff?”

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Chambers requested an absentee ballot be sent to him in Washington, D.C. because he was out of town prior and during the day of the election. He received his absentee ballot in Washington, D.C., filled it out and dropped in a mail box at a D.C.-area post office on the Sunday before the election. He was surprised to learn his vote did not count.

“If you look at elections anymore, they’re increasingly close,” he said. “And so not counting anybody’s vote for any reason is a pretty big deal. People that are registered to vote and are trying to exercise their right to vote should be allowed to do that,” he told the Journal-News.

There were 134,183 ballots cast on or before Election Day, according to the board of elections. Provisional and late-arriving absentee ballots will add to that total.

Sam Rossi, spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of State, said he’s not aware of any of the state’s 88 county boards of elections reporting this as an issue.

Warren County didn’t track this in the May primary but said they had 25 ballots that won’t be counted because the post office did not stamp a postmark over the stamps or place a sorting bar code on the back. There were 98,628 ballots cast on or before Election Day in Warren County, according to unofficial totals.

“It was too bad that the voters turned their ballot into the post office expecting them to return it to our office in time, and with a postmark, and now they will be rejected,” said Warren County Board of Elections Director Brian Sleeth.

“The U.S. Mail serves as a secure, efficient and effective means for citizens to exercise their democratic right to vote,” said David G. Van Allen,USPS Strategic Communications, in a statement to the Journal-News. “The Postal Service is committed to delivering election mail in a timely manner and works closely with local Boards of Elections to ensure any issues with absentee ballots are quickly resolved.”

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