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Franklin County Has Highest Number Of Provisional Ballots In Ohio

The early voting center at the Franklin County Board of Elections in Columbus.
John Minchillo
Associated Press

The voting rights group All Voting Is Local released a report this week showing that Franklin County has the most provisional ballots in the state.

Provisional ballots are cast when there’s questions about a voter’s eligibility on election day. The Board of Elections must resolve those questions before that person's vote counts.

"Franklin County makes up way too many of the provisional ballots statewide," says Mike Brickner, statewide director of All Voting Is Local. "And some of the reasons for that is a voter may show up and they aren't registered or they can't be found in the poll book or they show up to the wrong location or they don't bring the right ID."

Black, low-income and young voters were much more likely to cast provisional ballots in the 2018 election, according to the report. The solution, Brickner says, lies with the county Board of Elections.

"A lot of that speaks to a need for public education for voters to ensure they understand what the rules are, what they need to bring, what the deadlines are to register to vote," he says. 

Franklin County also tops the list of rejected provisional ballots, at 20%, while its population only accounts for 11% of the electorate.

All Voting Is Local wants Franklin County to fund a voter education program, that increases information about voter ID laws, improves systems that notify voters about polling location changes, and dedicates funding to target college students.

Brickner says the money is there. The Franklin County Commission ran its own voter education campaign after the Board of Elections declinedto spend almost a quarter of a million dollars on the effort.

"Last year, the Board of Elections refused to spend money on TV and media ads on voter education issues," he says. "This is money that the county commissioners had provided to the Board of Elections but the board said that they'd done enough voter education. We believe that this report shows very clearly where there are specific needs for voter education."

The Franklin County Board of Elections did not respond to a request for comment.

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.