When races are as close and contested as they have been this election cycle, counties' efforts to "cure" ballots with missing signatures, out-of-date addresses or other mistakes can become more important than ever to determine a winner.
While ballot curing happens every year in every state, in an election like 2020 -- when more of the electorate voted by mail or provisionally for the first time than any other year -- officials have their work cut out for them making sure those ballots are filed properly.
Local officials explained to WCPO that there are a handful of errors that could flag a ballot: anything from a missing or inconsistent signature to an expired ID to an outdated address on file with the county.
"If any of those items are missing, we cannot process the ballot," said Clermont County Board of Elections Director Julia Carney. "So we will send you what is called an 11-S form, and that's how you cure your ballot."
In Ohio, a voter whose mail-in or provisional ballot is challenged will receive a phone call and a fix-it form and will have until 10 days after Election Day to submit their corrected information.
Julia Vaugh works with Common Cause Indiana, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for openness and transparency in government. The watchdog group won a lawsuit three months ago after learning several Indiana counties had tossed out ballots without telling the impacted voters. A federal judge ruled in Common Cause's favor, saying the purge "violate(d) due process and equal protection rights."
Vaughn said election officers will scrutinize mail-in and provisional ballots even to compare a voter's signature. If a voter's signature has changed since they first registered, that could raise a red flag.
"Be aware that your signature is going to be compared with another signature that the election office has on hand, and in some cases that signature can go back to when you first registered to vote at 18," Vaughn said.
The only information that can be cured on a ballot is that which confirms a voter's identity and voter registration status. The ballot curing process does not allow a voter to change any of their decisions on the ballot.