MANSFIELD -- The Richland County Board of Elections has already processed 8,500 requests for absentee, mail-in ballots for the Nov. 3 general election, according to Director Paulette Hankins.
The county received 9,432 mailed ballots during the last presidential election cycle in 2016, almost 17 percent of the 56,106 total votes cast, Hankins said.
A higher number of residents are expected to vote by mail in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to some voter confusion.
"We have hundreds of duplicate applications since voters were confused by multiple mailings of absentee application forms," Hankins said. "The Center for Voter Information first sent out applications to many voters and then the Secretary of State's office sent out request forms to all registered voters.
"Other groups or organizations may send out even more yet this election season. Any of these application forms that are completed by the voter, signed, and submitted to our office are valid applications, but it is only necessary to submit one application per voter," Hankins said.
The local elections director said the voting system will not allow more than one absentee application per registered voter.
"The second request -- and sometimes third, or even fourth -- will be set aside in a 'duplicate' file. Currently, about two in five requests that we receive are duplicates," Hankins said.
Those who receive or request a mailed ballot will not issued a ballot at the polls on Nov. 3, prohibiting anyone from voting absentee and in person, Hankins said.
"If they receive or request a mailed ballot, their name is flagged in our electronic poll books at the polls and they cannot be issued another ballot - the programming on the EP does not permit this voter to be issued a voter access card for the voting units," Hankins said.
"If they insist that they didn't receive and/or request a mailed ballot, they will be allowed to vote a provisional paper ballot at the polls," she said.
After the election and before the provisional ballots are opened and counted, the local board of elections staff would check to see if they did vote by mail, or at another precinct, or even another county in Ohio, Hankins said.
That system of checks would be used by the board to determine if the provisional is to be verified and counted or not, according to Hankins.
On Tuesday, the local elections board made final changes to to the Nov. 3 general election ballot.
Hankins said the board invalidated the local option petition for the Wishmaker Bed and Breakfast in Bellville due to a lack of valid signatures on the petition. It will not appear on the ballot, she said.
"This should be the final list unless someone unexpectedly drops out of a race, or we get further orders from the Secretary of State. The write-in deadline has passed, and any valid write-in candidates are on this report (there are no local write-ins)," Hankins said.
"Also, please note that on the original list we sent out, the Springfield Township issues were inadvertently omitted," she said.
The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 5 and early voting begins on Oct. 6.
Statewide, with 55 days to go until Election Day, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced Wednesday that 1,000,579 absentee ballot applications have been received by county boards of elections.
This includes 14,253 requests from military and overseas voters whose absentee ballots will be mailed beginning Sept. 18. All other ballots will be mailed beginning Oct. 6.
Ohio didn’t break the one million absentee ballot request threshold until 28 days before election day in 2016. All data is current as of Sept. 4, LaRose said.
“While we’re making sure voters will be able to safely vote in-person, this incredible demand for absentee voting speaks to the confidence Ohioans have in the system,” LaRose said. “It’s strong. It’s secure. And our county boards of elections are prepared.”