LEBANON, Ohio — Barcodes and an online tracking system allows Warren County voters to see when their absentee ballots arrive at the processing center and when they are expected to arrive in their mailbox.
Election officials estimate more than 165,000 people will vote this year, up almost 52,000 from the 2016 election. About 600 people cast their vote by noon on Tuesday, Ohio’s first day of early voting.
Another 45,000 people are waiting for ballots in the mail, and county elections officials engineered a new tool so people voting by mail can make sure their vote is counted.
Brian Sleeth, director of Warren County Board of Elections, said he wanted to make extra tracking for absentee ballots available through an online system.
“I think getting it to them and them knowing when it’s going to arrive is really important,” Sleeth said.
With some Indiana counties reporting delays in receiving absentee ballots, Sleeth wanted to find a solution in his county.
Gwen McFarlin, chair of the Hamilton County Board of Elections, said she’s met with post office officials, and they assured her ballots would arrive in a timely manner.
“I still worry that we will get a lot of ballots after that deadline,” McFarlin said.
Hamilton County mailed 160,000 ballots on Tuesday. Warren County sent out a fraction of that. But Sleeth wanted to order tracking after election officials had to toss out 329 mail-in primary votes in April because they arrived too late.
All 88 counties in Ohio allow voters to see when ballots leave and return, but Sleeth paid the post office to send details on every outgoing ballot that his staff shares.
"I don’t know many other counties doing that,” Sleeth said. “We got a barcode on every one of them. We had our IT department build us a module … where a voter can type in their name and see when their ballot arrives at the processing center and when it’s expected in their mailbox."
Voters should not wait to request absentee ballots, election officials said. Absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 2 or dropped off on Election Day.
Anyone who is missing an absentee ballot should check online to make sure their request was processed. If the request was processed, voters should call the board of elections for help.