Editor’s Note: The News Journal asked Clinton County Board of Elections Director Shane Breckel to comment on the entire, unique primary election, including how everything went on Tuesday. We greatly appreciate him responding so quickly.
In terms of an overview, how would you summarize the primary election from the BOE vantage point? Were there any particular challenges?
“Our biggest challenge in this election was going from a standard presidential primary to an unprecedented vote-by-mail presidential primary with very little time to transition. We had already completed a full 4 weeks of early in-person and absentee-by-mail voting when the order was given to close the polls for in-person voting on election day, so we had already used a lot of our resources.
“Even after the March 16 order, we could not fully re-start absentee-by-mail until the Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill 197 to establish the guidelines and changes to the 2020 Presidential Primary Election. Once H.B. 197 was passed and we received directives from the Ohio Secretary of State on moving forward, our next challenge became staffing.
“With the huge volume of phone calls and emails requesting absentee ballots, processing of absentee ballot applications and the daily mailing of 3 to 4 times our normal number of absentee ballots to voters, we had to bring in seasonal help to manage the workload. We were even restricted in the number of people we could bring into our office because of social distancing, so we got everything done with a very minimal workforce. This resulted in a lot of long days and weekend hours.
“Though we have about the same amount of absentee ballots in a Presidential General Election, the processing of absentee ballot applications is accomplished over a longer period of time then we were allotted for this election. Additionally, the demand from voters for Absentee Ballot Applications was much greater for this election then we see in the Presidential General Election because the Ohio Secretary of State sends ballot applications to voters for this type of election starting in late summer. This allows for a slow build-up as we approach the start of absentee voting for the election. This election required immediate turnaround for processing absentee ballot applications and mailing ballots.
“Our staff rose to the occasion and got it done very day but it was tough. If there’s one thing I would have changed regarding H.B. 197, it would have been for Absentee Ballot Applications to be sent to voters instead of the informational postcard that was utilized. It would have moved the process forward for voters so they didn’t have to request or download the application.”
Did anyone who qualified for in-person voting show up Tuesday?
“In-person voting yesterday was limited as it was primarily only for persons with a disability who need help with marking their ballot and persons unable to receive mail at the place where the elector resides or at another location.
“We had 3 voters who cast their ballots who qualified as belonging to one of the 2 groups. As required under federal law, though not addressed in H.B. 197, we also offered provisional voting to those who qualified, and had 7 voters cast their vote provisionally.
How did your election night go Tuesday night? Some counties (including Warren) had results earlier in the evening. Have you heard how they pulled that off?
“Election Night went well but we received over 600 ballots in the final hours before the 7:30 p.m. deadline. This is what caused our election results to be delayed until just before 10 p.m.
“Before they can be tabulated, they must be received and audited. This takes some time. Several larger counties were still scanning ballots going into the overnight, so we feel good that we were able to get results up at a reasonable hour.
“Warren County was fortunate to not have a lot of ballots returned right before the 7:30 p.m. deadline. We were not so fortunate, but happy our voters were able to get their ballots returned in time. That’s what’s most important.”
Anything you want to add?
“No decisions have been made regarding the type of voting we will offer for the 2020 Presidential Election in November.
“We ask voters to keep themselves informed by reading the Wilmington News Journal, following our office and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose on social media, and/or checking our website, https://www.boe.ohio.gov/clinton/ periodically for updates throughout the summer.”