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Hamilton County BOE hopes to avoid voter confusion that caused primary ballots to be thrown out

New video explains provisional voter process
Posted at 5:20 PM, Jul 21, 2020

CINCINNATI — Mistakes got hundreds of ballots thrown out in Hamilton County during the Ohio Primary last spring.

The general assembly, worried about COVID-19 spreading, limited in-person voting to those homeless or disabled. But hundreds of confused voters still showed up at the Board of Elections in Norwood.

County records show 354 ballots were thrown out.

That's why the Hamilton County Board of Elections is taking steps to avoid voter confusion in November. The county recently released a how-to video explaining provisional voting and its importance.

"I don't think the past primary is a good example of provisional voting because it was such a unique situation,” BOE Director Sherry Poland said.

Statewide, election officials tossed more than 10,000 provisional ballots, which means there were questions about the voter’s eligibility.

State records show some counties, namely Champaign, Greene and Licking, rejected more provisional ballots than they counted.

Other ballots were not counted for various reasons:

  • They showed up late.
  • People didn’t register or registered in the wrong state.
  • They did not bring an ID.
  • The envelopes on mail-in ballots didn’t have a name.

The rules are strict, said Joe Mallory, a former election official.

"Even though they can verify your birthdate, they can verify your signature, even if they can verify all the other information, if you did not print your name, those two lines that say print your first and last name, if you didn't print it, they will reject your envelope, your provisional ballot envelope,” Mallory said.

Usually, 90% are counted, and although nearly one in four got tossed last spring, Poland expects a November closer to normal.

"We are planning and the guidelines we received from the state is to plan for that type of an election because that's what voters want. They want the choice,” Poland said.

With vote-by-mail and in-person voting early and on Election Day, officials expect less provisional voting as long as voters prepare.

Here’s their advice:

  • Check your registration. Get it done before Oct 5.
  • Also, know that if you request a vote-by-mail ballot and then show up Election Day, you will vote provisionally so officials can make sure everyone only votes once.