Flood of absentee ballot requests creating Greene County backlog

Voters use the drop box at the Greene County Board of elections in this April 2020 image. Staff photo by Marshall Gorby.

Greene County elections officials are asking for patience from voters as they catch up on processing an unprecedented influx of absentee ballot request forms.

Greene County Board of Elections Director Llyn McCoy said they are about a week and a half behind on processing absentee ballot request forms, with about 3,000 to 5,000 requests not yet handled.

She said processing was slowed by putting coronavirus protections in place for workers and a glut of requests coming after the Ohio Secretary of State sent request forms to every registered voters. But they hired four seasonal workers this week and hope to get caught up quickly.

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“Everybody that currently has an absentee application, whether it’s showing in our system or not ... we will have those ready to go by Oct. 6,” she said.

Greene County resident Althea Jones said she hand-delivered her absentee ballot request to the board of elections on Sept. 4. On Thursday, it was still not showing as received in the tracking tool on the board’s website.

“A lot of us are concerned,” she said, worried that the elections board won’t be up to the task of getting ballots in the mail quickly. “Most of Ohio is trying to vote by mail, and it seems we are all at risk of being forced to use a provisional ballot instead.”

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If a voter requests an absentee ballot and doesn’t receive it or doesn’t cast it, he or she can only vote by provisional ballot on Election Day and the vote will be counted after the election once officials confirm a mailed ballot didn’t come in.

Montgomery County elections officials say they are processing absentee ballot requests within 48 hours.

Greene County has processed 14,461 absentee ballot request forms so far for this year’s general election, which is nearly as much as the number of mailed ballots in the 2016 presidential election.

After being contacted by the Dayton Daily News, the Ohio Secretary of State’s office said they are in contact with Greene County and have been told the county is on track to catch up.

Another issue slowing ballot requests is mistakes by voters themselves. McCoy said a common mistake she is seeing is people forgetting to put their birth date.

Ballots will be mailed out Oct. 6, after the Oct. 5 deadline to register to vote. State lawmakers on Monday denied a request from the Ohio Secretary of State to pre-pay postage for ballots, so voters will have to buy stamps or drop ballots off at a secure drop box at their local board of elections.

Voters can also cast their ballots in-person at their board of elections starting Oct. 6 or in-person at their local polling place on Election Day.

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