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Franklin County Election Officials Send Off Almost 240,000 Absentee Ballots

USPS worker unloading absentee ballots to be sent out Tuesday, October 6, 2020
Nick Evans
USPS worker unloading ballots to be sent out Tuesday.

Officials with the Franklin County Board of Elections stopped by the post office on Monday—with about a quarter-million absentee ballots.

The deadline to register to vote in Ohio was Monday, October 5, and early voting begins Tuesday.

Pallet after pallet rolled out of a semi-trailer at a mail-sorting facility on Columbus’ Northeast side. And two election board workers—one Democrat and one Republican—signed over custody for the 237,498 ballots stacked neatly against a wall.

Board director Ed Leonard says this initial run is more than they sent out in the entirety of the last presidential election.

“We’re excited with this next step of the process to get voters their ballots,” Leonard says. “And we actually arranged to come out a day early, so we could deliver them here to the post office on Monday so that they’ll be available for the voters on Tuesday when early vote starts.”

October 31 is the latest that Ohioans can request an absentee ballot. But election officials and voting rights organizations have continually stressed: Voters should request their ballots, fill them out, and send them back as soon as possible.

Leonard is confident that message has gotten through.

"I fully expect we'll have people who receive these tomorrow who will come to the board of elections offices and drop them off tomorrow as well,” Leonard says.

Returning ballots quickly gives the board more time to reach out to voters to correct any potential errors on the ballot, such as a forgotten signature. 

More importantly, it gives the board a head start on counting. Officials can start processing ballots once they’re received, and absentee ballot results are the first ones counted on Election Night.

With unprecedented demand for absentee ballots this election cycle, a wave of ballots arriving close to Election Day might lead to longer delays in knowing the results.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.