Lessons learned in Ohio primary made for smoother general election, local officials say

And those lessons crossed state lines
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Posted at 3:27 PM, Nov 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-05 17:15:26-05

Problems during the Ohio primary election this spring might have made general election procedures across the Tri-State go more smoothly.

Confusion over a last-minute switch to all mail-in ballots for the Ohio primary -- postponed from March to April due to the coronavirus pandemic -- compelled officials to toss roughly 10,000 ballots across the state in that election. Local election officials in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana said they felt relieved Tuesday when it became clear they wouldn't face the same problem at that scale.

"Our secretaries of state, our legislators, our governors, our election officials, yes, they learned from the primary," Trey Grayson, former Kentucky secretary of state, told WCPO. "That's why the election went pretty smoothly on Tuesday."

In all three states, teams of election employees -- represented equally across political party lines -- are the only people who handle and scan ballots, and those teams are overseen by bipartisan boards. Butler County Board of Elections Deputy Director Eric Corbin said the April primary in Ohio -- in which roughly 10,000 ballots were thrown out, statewide -- presented his team with a learning opportunity.

"We have some staff, some part-time staff that come back multiple elections in a row," Corbin said. "They know the process, and we're comfortable letting them be a part of one of those teams. But we definitely wouldn't use any of our new staff just because they haven't had the ability to learn."

Grayson said lessons learned in Ohio -- including the need to widen the options voters had in order to cast their ballots and to allow ballot processing to begin before Election Day -- were heard across state lines.

"Kentucky learned from Ohio's experience. Then Kentucky learned from its own experience, and so did Ohio," he said.

Election staffs in all three states do expect some change in unofficial vote counts: small numbers of ballots from military, overseas and absentee voters that will be added no sooner than next week.