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Thousands of Provisional Ballots Are Being Counted at Summit County Board of Elections

Jon Nungesser

The Summit County Board of Electionsspent hours crawling through thousands of provisional ballots Monday to decide which should count in the final tally of the Nov. 3 election. It’s a laborious process happening at all 88 of Ohio’s county boards of election.

The provisional process is one reason results are never final Election Night. Voters who encounter problems—things like mismatched addresses or forgotten IDs—get paper ballots, giving election workers time to comb through records and voters time to supply documents.

But provisional ballots ballooned this year to nearly 160,000 statewide. That’s largely because of voters who requested mail-in absentee ballots but changed their minds and showed up to vote in person Election Day. Provisionals ensure they won’t be counted twice if they vote both by mail and in person.

Summit County Board of Elections Director Bryan Williams says provisional ballots are often the biggest problem in an election.

“It’s the one area where people are most likely to—still small—but most likely to be disenfranchised," Williams said. "We approved 81 percent of the provisionals that were processed. That’s the highest number I ever remember."

Each county elections board must certify its official results by 2 p.m. Wednesday. (Statewide certification must be done by Nov. 28).

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