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OH Really? Gets Answers to Your Voting Questions from Jen Miller of Ohio League of Women Voters

Ohio's primary has been postponed.
Ohio's primary has been postponed.

You have questions about voting this fall: everything from counting absentee ballots to voting in-person. You asked – we’re answering in this week’s "OH Really?" election-protection conversation with Jen Miller, director of the Ohio League of Women Voters.

Provisional ballots

This week’s first question comes from Rodger from Chagrin Falls, who asks: “The absentee ballot request indicates that if one decides to vote in person, after receiving the absentee ballot, the vote will be  provisional. What does this mean?”

If you've already received an absentee ballot, Miller says you can still vote in-person -- though it’s not ideal. You will be given a provisional ballot and can still make all of your selections. However, before counting the ballot, the Board of Elections will be checking to ensure you haven’t already sent in an absentee ballot and voted twice.

“Make sure,” she says, “if you’re given a provisional ballot – you’ll be given a piece of paper. Read those instructions to find out how to make sure your vote counts.”

Mailing vs. drop-off

The next question comes from Toby Thompson of Copley.

“I’ve requested an absentee ballot. To ensure my vote is counted, is it best to return it via USPS mail or drop it off at my county board of elections? If I mail it back, does it need one or two First Class stamps?”

Miller says that if you’re voting absentee, “just do everything [early]. If you’re voting by mail, you might want to walk it into the post office and make sure it is truly postmarked by November 2.” But she says it’s preferred to drop the ballot at the Board of Elections drop box.

In terms of postage, “not every ballot is the same size, even within one county. So there’s not a standard amount of postage that’s needed. That’s another good reason to walk it into your post office.

“If you submit a ballot to the postal service that doesn’t have enough postage, it’s going to get delivered anyway. Then your county will have to pay the postal service for all of that insufficient postage after the election.”

Counting ballots

The next question comes from Tom Baker of Cleveland, who asks, “We are going to vote absentee and use the county drop off box to deposit our ballot as soon as we can. When and how are absentee ballots going to be counted in relation to the rest of the ballots?”

Miller says there will be some differences between counties, potentially, but ballots are not counted the moment they’re received. Board of Elections officials start by opening ballots as they come in and flattening them so they can be fed through a scanning machine. Much of that will happen in advance of Election Day. That evening, after polls close, the first numbers to be displayed will be the absentee ballots – and they will continue counting until 10 days after the election.

However, one additional reason for beginning the process early is that if there are problems with a ballot – such as the signature – voters only have seven days to address them.

Early voting

We’ve also received a number of questions on early voting hours. In Ohio, the hours are listed here.

And last week, we touched on how to apply for an absentee ballot. Ballots will not be mailed out until October 6.

Jen Miller will answer more of your election questions each Monday. If you have a question about voting, ask us!


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