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Nearly 50,000 Franklin County Voters Received Incorrect Absentee Ballots

More than 500 people queued up in Franklin County for the start of early voting on Oct. 6.
Nick Evans
More than 500 people queued up Tuesday morning in Franklin County as early voting began.

The Franklin County Board of Elections has determined that 49,669 voters throughout the county received an incorrect absentee ballot this week – accounting for almost 21% of the ballots mailed out to voters.

In a press release Friday, the election board said it's started the process of printing and mailing replacement ballots to every voter who received the wrong ballot. Those ballots will be sent through the U.S. Postal Service within 72 hours.

"We want to make it clear that every voter who received an inaccurate ballot will receive a corrected ballot," the board said. "Stringent tracking measures are in place to guarantee that a voter can only cast one vote."

The election board also plans to mail informational postcards to all impacted voters telling them about the problem and what to do next. Voters can verify the information on their ballot here.

Voters who suspect they received an incorrect ballot, or who worry they may have already submitted the wrong one, can contact the Board of Elections at 614-525-3100.

So long as they haven't mailed back their ballot, voters can also choose to vote early in-person at the election board building at 1700 Morse Road. 

On Monday, just before the start of early votingaround the state, Franklin County mailed outa record 237,498 absentee ballots – more than the total number of ballots sent out in the last presidential election. When those ballots started arriving the next day, however, some Central Ohio residents reported that their envelopes and ballots contained the wrong information, such as an incorrect precinct or congressional race.

President Trump tweeted about the incident on Friday afternoon, reiterating his unsupported claimsabout "rigged" voting. However, Franklin County election officials say there is no evidence that the mistake was intentional or nefarious. 

Rather, the board blames a malfunction with one of the high-speed scanners, provided by vendor BlueCrest, used to process the ballots.

"On October 3 at 2:24 p.m., a function of one of those scanners was disabled," election board director Ed Leonard said Thursday. "This was determined to be the root cause of the system error that led to voters receiving an incorrect ballot."

The board says the scanner is now working as it should. In a statement late Friday, the election board clarified that neither BlueCrest nor its equipment is under investigation, but rather both parties launched a probe into how the mistake occured and how to correct it. Law enforcement is not involved at this time.

In a statement, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said he was confident the board would be transparent in fixing the error, and that Ohio's election remains "safe, secure and accurate." 

"The Franklin County Board of Elections made a serious mistake and they’ve been working hard to correct it," LaRose said. "At the same time, it's so important to remember that Ohio has bipartisan boards of elections for a reason – to ensure our elections are fair and no Party has sway over the other."

LaRose instructed the elections board that if a voter fills out the incorrect ballot, the board must hold onto it until a correct replacement is submitted. If a correct ballot is never received, the original must be "processed, remade, and scanned on or after the 11th day after the election."

Absentee ballot requests have reached record highs this election, in which Ohio is once again expected to be a critical swing state. By Tuesday, LaRose said 2,154,235 applications had been received by Ohio's 88 boards of elections — more than double the number received at the same time four years ago.

Early votingcontinues until November 2 at 2 p.m. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by that date to be counted, or voters can drop them off at the Board of Elections ballot drop box until 7:30 p.m. on November 3.

Last updated: Monday, Oct. 12

Gabe Rosenberg joined WOSU in October 2016. As digital news editor, Gabe reports breaking news and edits all content for the WOSU website, as well as manages the station's social media accounts.