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Confusion, light turnout mark in-person voting - News - The Columbus Dispatch


On Monday, the Ohio Secretary of State’s office reported that 1.97 million Ohioans requested vote-by-mail ballots for the primary, with about 1.46 million of them already casting ballots, leaving more than 500,000 outstanding ballots.

Across the state, many Ohio voters remained flummoxed about this year’s primary election process, as many never received mail-in ballots and others still weren’t sure how to cast provisional ballots on Tuesday.

“We are still hearing from people confused about Election Day,” said Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, and part of The Ohio Voter Rights Coalition, which monitored the process. “I think the bottom line is we’re never going to quite know how many individuals were impacted and just gave up.

“That is concerning. Every election matters.”

Here’s where you can find unofficial results from Ohio’s extended primary

Mike Brickner, the Ohio director of All Voting is Local, added: “What we’re seeing now is that a lot of those voters did not receive absentee ballots.”

On Monday, the Ohio secretary of state’s office reported that 1.97 million Ohioans requested vote-by-mail ballots for the primary, and about 1.46 million of them had already cast ballots, leaving more than 500,000 ballots outstanding.

Mail-in ballots had to be postmarked by Monday to be part of the official count, or dropped off Tuesday at the voters’ county elections boards.

That meant that scores of Ohioans who had not received ballots in time had to decide whether to travel to their boards of elections to cast provisional ballots Tuesday.

Around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, the turnout at the Franklin County Board of Elections on Morse Road was light. When the doors opened at 6:30 a.m., about 30 people in line, said Aaron Sellers, board of elections spokesman.

Voters were directed to two lines: one for those with disabilities, the other for people who didn’t receive their absentee ballots in the mail.

Those in the latter category received their own pens to fill out provisional ballot information on a blue envelope in one room. Then they were directed to a second room to have the information confirmed. They went to a third room to cast their ballots, receiving a rubber finger pad to use when they touched the screen to vote. Poll workers wore masks.

Outside, about a half-dozen voters said they thought the process went smoothly and safely.

“It wasn’t crowded, and it went very quickly,” said Cary Williams, 61, of Weinland Park, who said poll workers explained the procedures well. She said she had not received her ballot in the mail.

“I thought it was a really efficient system,” said Molly Cooke, 23, of the Northland area, who also cast a provisional ballot. She said it seemed the board took steps to make sure that people could safely vote.

As of 3:25 p.m. Tuesday, 615 provisional voters and 110 disabled voters cast ballots in person. About 17,000 voted ballots came in from the post office on Tuesday morning, Sellers wrote in an email.

One voter who wasn’t sure if he would be heading up to Morse Road on Tuesday afternoon was Jay Packard of Hamilton Township.

Packard said he had applied to vote by mail, but when he opened the mailing on April 20, he discovered he had received a Democratic ballot rather than the Republican ballot he had requested.

He called the board. At first, someone told him that he had to send in another application. After Packard protested, the board said it would send him the Republican ballot.

As of early Tuesday afternoon, he still hadn’t received it. He eventually headed up to Morse Road to vote.

“I can deal with the inconvenience,” said Packard, who is 65 and retired. But the whole point of the mail-in election was so that voters could avoid waiting with others in line, he said.

“It’s so frustrating to me,” he said.

Results will be preliminary until all votes that come in via the mail through May 8 are counted.

Because of the coronavirus, state officials last month ordered the polls closed just eight hours before they were set to open March 17. They decided to have the primary election conducted almost entirely by mail.

Brickner said it hasn’t been easy on elections officials.

“They’re still scrambling to make sure they do it correctly,” he said.

mferench@dispatch.com

@MarkFerenchik

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