Absentee ballot issues addressed by BOE

MIAMI COUNTY — The nearly 16,000 voters in Miami County who requested absentee ballots are experiencing a delay in receiving those ballots due to a third-party vendor issue, according to the board of elections officials.

Director Laura Bruns reported the issue to the board of elections on Tuesday during a special meeting.

“On Friday we learned that Midwest Direct, which is the mailing company that IVS (a third party vendor) actually contracts with, we don’t have a direct contract with Midwest, but we learned they were having some delays,” Bruns said. “We understood that they were having an equipment issue over the weekend, prior to the start of early voting.”

Bruns said Miami County is one of 14 counties the mailing company is to send out ballots — including large Ohio counties including Cuyahoga County (Cleveland area), Summit, Butler counties.

“They are working very hard to catch up,” Bruns said. “Our understanding is that our ballots are out.”

The board previously approved to use IVS, the lowest bidder for $2.23 per ballot for up to 25,000 ballots.

The IVS vendor receives Miami County’s requests for absentee voting. The quote included database and election setup, packet assembly, and mailing, which includes ballot, return envelope security sleeve and voter instructions; ballot printing, USPS mail tracking, and postage.

Bruns said those ballots can be tracked online by voters with the post office. Bruns said Butler County officials have reported once the ballots were out, it took two days to be delivered to residents. Monday was a federal holiday and the post office was closed.

“We are anticipating those ballots will be reaching people by the end of this week, which is still plenty of time to get them back to us,” she said. “Not exactly the start we’d like to have had with our mail, but it’s going and the number of applications we have been receiving has increased — it’s just so different from a typical presidential election year.”

Bruns said the office has been fielding phone calls from concerned voters.

“We are getting that word out to the voters that we are working on getting those ballots out as quickly as possible,” Bruns said.

Chairman David Fisher said he got online to track his ballot request on Tuesday. Fisher said he read it was “in the mail” on Oct. 6 to which Bruns explained that was the day the Miami County Board of Elections sent their absentee application request files to the IBS vendors.

Bruns said she doesn’t know if there’s a way to change the wording on the tracking system to clarify the process, but Deputy Director Ian Ridgeway said the only way he’d know how to do it is one-by-one.

Bruns and Ridgeway both said it’s positive that voters are looking at the tracking system for their ballots for the application to when their ballot is received by the office.

• New directive for absentee voters who want to vote early instead

If a voter has decided to vote in person rather than by mail, but they’ve already requested an absentee ballot, a new change in the rules from the Secretary of State’s Office states you can vote early in person.

If a voter has already received an absentee ballot in the mail, the board of elections will ask for it back and give you a new, regular ballot at the early in-person voting site. You’re not required to return the other ballot as a condition for getting a new one, however. Ohio counts early ballots as they come in, so your vote will be processed ahead of Election Day.

If you’ve requested an absentee but show up to vote on Election Day, you will have to vote provisionally, meaning the ballot won’t be added to the count until after Nov. 3.

“The board of elections may count only one ballot per voter,” the directive says. “If the voter marks and returns more than one ballot, the board must count only the first ballot received. It is a felony to vote more than once in the same election.”

The deadline to request an absentee ballot is three days before the election, but voters can submit their application at any time. If mailed, absentee ballots must be postmarked by the day before the election in order to be counted. You can also return your absentee ballot in-person to the county board of elections before the close of the polls at 7:30 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3.

In Ohio, absentee ballot requests increased by 316,033 to a total of 2,470,268 absentee ballot applications received by county boards of elections statewide. This includes 23,853 requests from military and overseas voters. At the same time during the 2016 election, 1,245,670 absentee ballots had been requested.