More than 1,500 local absentee ballot requests incomplete

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Local election officials say voters need to make sure they include all the required information on absentee ballot request forms and pay close attention to unsolicited request forms they get in the mail.

The Montgomery County Board of Elections has received 1,123 absentee ballot request forms it can’t process because of missing information, mostly party affiliation, and they are reaching out to voters for more information. Greene County officials say they received 500 incomplete requests just last week and have an employee working full-time to call people.

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“People aren’t putting what kind of ballot they want,” Greene County Board of Elections Director Llyn McCoy said. “They really, really need to do that.”

This comes as coronavirus concerns pushed back the primary election to April 28, with a requirement that most voters cast ballots by mail by April 27.

Meanwhile some voters express concern that they received ballot request forms with incorrect information already filled in.

Carlos Jillson in Yellow Springs was one of many Greene County voters who received an unsolicited request form in the mail on Sunday from a Washington, D.C.-based political action committee supporting a local Republican candidate.

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The form was filled out to request a Republican primary ballot, though Jillson intends to vote in the Democratic primary. Another form was pre-filled with the name and other information of someone who no longer lives there.

“I felt like it was someone trying to … take advantage of me,” he told the Dayton Daily News. “If I hadn’t read it closely, I would have requested the wrong ballot.”

McCoy said the practice “does mislead voters” but is allowed under Ohio law. She advised people to look closely at such mailers, and said voters can cross out incorrect pre-filled information and write the correct information in.

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Jillson said he went to Tom's Market in Yellow Springs for a blank form. Blank forms also are available in the April 5 edition of the Dayton Daily News, which is still available in some newsstands. If people have a printer at home, the forms can also be downloaded from the Secretary of State's Office. Or they can be requested by phone from your local board of elections.

Montgomery County Board of Elections Director Jan Kelly said she hasn’t received any complaints in her county about such mailers during this election, but “a lot of organizations, parties and candidates do that.”

In addition to looking closely at any application before sending it in, she said it’s important that voters fill in all the necessary information and submit only one request. She said they have received 300 duplicate requests.

Local boards of elections say they are working as fast as they can to fulfill requests. Each must be examined by an election worker to make sure it’s valid and manually entered into the system to generate a ballot.

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“It’s labor intensive,” Kelly said, noting they hired 20 additional workers and she was personally sitting at her desk processing requests when contacted by the newspaper.

Montgomery County mailed out 10,000 ballots last week alone, Kelly said. Once a request is received, it’s processed in about two days, she said, and the ballot is mailed out the next Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday. The postal service then takes about three to five days to deliver them, she said.

Greene County received 3,000 requests on Monday, McCoy said. The office is turning around requests in about seven to 10 days, she said.

This means voters need to get requests in soon so they have time to receive the ballot, fill it out and drop it off or have it in the mail postmarked no later than April 27.

“People need to be patient with us, we’re working as hard as we can to get ballots out,” McCoy said.