Secretary of State Frank LaRose has issued a directive for the Franklin County Board of Elections to fix a mistake where incorrect absentee ballots were sent to voters. The scope of the problem is yet to be determined, but election officials say this creates an important lesson for voters around the state.
LaRose says the Franklin County Board of Elections must create a process that gets the word out for voters who received the wrong ballot and clearly explain to them that a new ballot will be sent. The messaging includes updating the county's online ballot tracker system, if possible.
"System checks are in place to make sure mistakes like the one made by the Franklin County Board of Elections don’t happen – but they only work if the board properly executes those checks," said Maggie Sheehan, spokesperson for LaRose, in a statement. "When we became aware of the issue, we immediately notified the Franklin County Board of Elections and they began work to mitigate the issue with impacted voters."
The directive also says the county must provide a replacement ballot for every voter that received an incorrect ballot.
Some ballots had an incorrect congressional race, while others had the correct information but were sent to voters in a different precinct. It's not clear how many of the county's estimated 250,000 absentee ballots were affected. The election board blamed the malfunction on a high-speed scanner that proofs ballots for accuracy, and said the system is now working as it should.
Voters who received an incorrect ballot can call the Franklin County Board of Elections at 614-525-3100 to request a new one. People can also vote early in-person at the election board building at 1700 Morse Road, provided they haven't submitted their ballot yet.
LaRose also details how the county should address a situation in which a voter may have already filled out an incorrect ballot. If that happens, the board must hold onto that ballot until the voter sends in the correct replacement ballot.
If a replacement ballot is never received, the original ballot must be "processed, remade, and scanned on or after the 11th day after the election."
Aaron Ockerman with the Ohio Association of Election Officials says voters everywhere should learn from this and take a second look at their ballot.
"That is a really good lesson for everyone around the state that you should take the responsibility to double check your ballot to make sure that everything is on there and that everything is correct," Ockerman says, "and if you flag and issue or a problem and have a concern you should reach out to your board of elections and make them aware of it."
Ockerman adds that when a voter fills out the wrong ballot, election officials will do a top-down count of votes for every race they can.
Early voting continues until November 2 at 2 p.m. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by that date to be counted, or voters can drop them off at the Board of Elections ballot drop box until 7:30 p.m. on November 3.