FROM OUR EDITOR: We are preparing for an election like no other

Long lines for early voting at the Montgomery County Board of Elections stretched out into the parking garage Tuesday. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF
Long lines for early voting at the Montgomery County Board of Elections stretched out into the parking garage Tuesday. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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NOTE: This column by Dayton Daily News Editor Jim Bebbington appeared on the Ideas and Voices page Sunday, Oct. 11.

With voting underway we want our readers to know what to expect from the Dayton Daily News now, on election night Nov. 3, and in the weeks that follow.

Reports from our local boards of elections show more voters are expected to use mail-in ballots this year than they have for many elections. Because of COVID-19 and concerns over the validity of vote totals, there is also heightened awareness of the need for safety and security around the results and for the voters themselves.

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The Dayton Daily News is committed to publishing confirmed, validated results throughout this process. Here is what we are going to do.

Between now and the end of the voting process, Nov. 3, our reporters are tracking how our local county boards of elections are doing. We are talking with voters and looking into any claims of improper voting experiences. If you want to send us a question or concern, go to DaytonDailyNews.com/elections and look for the ‘Voter Resources’ section.

When polls close on election night, Nov. 3, local boards of elections are expected to count first the thousands of ballots they have received by that day from mail-in voters. Those numbers will likely come out first. Throughout that night we will publish live results as more ballots are counted. We will use only verified boards of elections figures from our southwest Ohio counties, as well as results from the Ohio Secretary of State.

Jim Bebbington, Editor, Dayton Daily News. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Jim Bebbington, Editor, Dayton Daily News. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

By the end of that night it is anticipated that many thousands of valid ballots will still be in the process of being mailed back. Ohio law gives the Postal Service 10 days to deliver any ballot that is postmarked by Monday, Nov. 2.

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On election night we will report which candidates or issues are leading at the end of that night’s count. And we expect to be able to report how many mail-in ballots were requested but not yet received. It is doubtful that every one of those ballots is going to be returned, but that will give all of us a rough estimate of how many votes are still coming in. If the number of ballots outstanding at the end of the night is more than the difference in votes for a winning and losing candidate or issue, we will write about those outcomes as who is leading, not who won.

Then, over the next two weeks, Ohio’s boards of elections - as well as boards in all 50 states - are expected to work through their processes for finalizing the vote count. As soon as those are completed for our local counties, we will publish those results as well.

In the presidential race, our coverage will be part of a tidal wave of news that we know all of our readers have access to. We will publish articles from our primary sources for national news - the Associated Press and the New York Times news services - using the same standard that we have set for ourselves. Namely, as mail-in votes are still being tabulated, stories may refer to who is ahead or behind, but will not declare a winner. Vote counting and re-counting is not expected to be completed until Nov. 24.

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We consider it vital for our work to help our readers cut through the noise around this election and know clearly where things stand. We will be sharing more with readers in columns like this over the next Sundays on what they will be able to rely on us in digital on election night, as well as our ongoing efforts to monitor a safe and accurate voting experience locally.

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