Ohio eyes election snags as 2016 nears

Julie Carr Smyth - The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s elections chief is confident glitches encountered in November’s election will be corrected before the battleground state holds its high-stakes presidential primary in March.

Secretary of State Jon Husted told The Associated Press he plans a series of steps to assure problems with postmarks and poll books aren’t repeated. The remarks came on a day when he received reports related to snags in the Nov. 3 election and met with U.S Deputy Postmaster Ronald Stroman.

He insisted the pivotal swing state will be ready for 2016.

“There’s no other option,” he said.

Husted said he plans to require that all future absentee ballots be returned in letter-sized envelopes to avoid a problem encountered in the Akron area with postmarks. More than 800 ballots in Summit County arrived without postmarks and were discarded since the law requires a postmark for a ballot to be counted.

Husted said he’ll also promote the importance of poll worker training and encourage recruitment of tech-savvy newcomers after electronic poll book issues caused voting delays in Cincinnati.

“With every problem that occurred in 2015, we’ve identified the problem and we’ve identified the solution,” the Republican said. “We will make sure that the boards are doing what it takes to make sure that these recommendations are implemented.”

Husted said an upcoming directive regarding ballot envelopes comes on Stroman’s recommendation. Stroman told Husted all letter-sized envelopes are postmarked by machines, while larger ballot envelopes require special treatment to assure every one receives a postmark. Seventy percent of Ohio counties already use letter-sized envelopes.

“There’s no room for human error if you use a letter-sized envelope,” Husted said.

In all, 1,523 fall ballots across Ohio arrived without a postmark and thus were not counted, according to county statistics Husted received Friday. The Summit County ballots accounted for about a third of those.

Husted said he also received a “self-critical and transparent” report from Hamilton County on Friday explaining problems with electronic poll books that led to polls there having to be kept open late.

The county reported it lacked the proper Internet connection and didn’t recruit or train poll workers properly on using the electronic technology.

“We really need as many people — particularly technology-savvy people who are willing to work at the polls — to come out and help us,” he said. “Because we need about 40,000 poll workers on Election Day and we’re going to be asking people to make a day for democracy.”

Julie Carr Smyth

The Associated Press