Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted expects the presidential election won’t be too close to call by the morning after Election Day, but said Friday some races won’t be decided until late November.
State law prohibits local boards of election from counting provisional and late-arriving absentee ballots until 10 days after the election. The time allows provisional voters to provide missing information or absentee voters to correct mistakes made on the identification envelope.
A race could be in limbo until after Nov. 17 if the number of outstanding ballots to be counted exceeds the margin of victory.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Husted said he doesn’t know if more or fewer Ohioans will cast provisional ballots on Tuesday due to an increase in absentee ballots mailed to voters.
“We have tried to do everything within our authority to make it easy to vote, to help people cast a regular ballot and ultimately… there’s some personal responsible required from the voter to cooperate in this process,” Husted said.
Most absentee ballots will be counted before Election Day votes and the results will be published online soon after the polls close. Provisional ballots and absentee ballots postmarked by Monday delivered to boards of election after Election Day can’t be counted until 10 days later.
Only then, Husted said, can an automatic recount be triggered if candidates are separated by a sliver of total votes cast — one-fourth of 1 percent in statewide races and one-half of 1 percent in all other races.
More than 1.2 million Ohioans have voted early as of Oct. 26: 950,544 via mail-in absentee ballot and 306,766 in person at early voting centers and local boards of election. Husted said his office has worked hard to clean up Ohio’s voter rolls: more than 106,000 voters updated their addresses through a new online feature, more than 340,000 duplicate registrations have been removed and more than 160,000 deceased voters were removed through a new national partnership to access death records from other states.
“Our voter rolls are in the best shape they have ever been,” Husted said. “The most recent information was made available via the BMV has qualified tens of thousands of voters to vote a regular ballot rather than having a wrong address and having to vote a provisional ballot.”
Voters who show up at the polls on Tuesday could be asked to complete a provisional ballot if their registration doesn’t reflect a new name or address, proper identification isn’t provided or their eligibility is in question.
More than 200,000 Ohioans voted provisionally in 2008 — the most of any state besides California, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which surveys every county after elections. Roughly 20 percent were thrown out as invalid.
Husted said all ballots cast legally, including provisional ballots and absentee ballots that meet the postmark date, will be counted in the official results.
Unofficial results will be updated periodically on Tuesday night at the secretary of state’s website, sos.state.oh.us.
The number of outstanding provisional and absentee ballots to be counted will not be available until the end of the night, after all counties have submitted their final reports. That count could increase — absentee ballots postmarked Nov. 5 and military absentee ballots returned by Nov. 17 will be counted.