Other than a minor postal glitch, early voting in Fulton County has gone smoothly but is slightly down from 2012 as of late last week, according to the Board of Elections.
Little more than a week after the BOE dropped off about 2,300 ballots at the Wauseon post office Oct. 12 it began receiving calls from early voters who hadn’t received them. Deputy Director Kandice Lemley said the problem originated within the postal system itself, not the local branch.
“It was more of the distribution centers out of state. Our local post office sent them out just as soon as they got them,” she said.
The postal service gave no reason for the missing ballots. The BOE reissued 70 ballots by mail, and the phone calls subsided, Lemley said.
Otherwise, early and absentee voting in the county has progressed without a major hitch. Of the 2,737 ballots requested by mail, 1,901 have been returned. Ballots sent by mail must be postmarked no later than Nov. 7 or they can’t be counted.
They can also be delivered to the BOE offices at 135 Courthouse Plaza in Wauseon until 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 8.
BOE in-office voters have so far totaled 1,494, and Lemley said the number of walk-in voters is expected to spike during the final week before the election. She said the county’s 168 touch-screen voting machines, including six used at the BOE for early voting, have been tested for logic and accuracy, and have paper back-ups.
The offices also received a total of 103 early voter requests from Fulton Manor, Fulton Suites, Heartland of Wauseon, Fairlawn Haven in Archbold, Swanton Healthcare and Retirement, and Swanton Valley Center.
Forty-one of 76 absentee ballots requested by uniformed and overseas Fulton County citizens have been returned from as far as South America, Japan, and Australia. Those ballots are requested by students, business people, and others staying abroad.
Lemley said ballots requested overseas don’t have a postmark deadline but must be received within 10 days of the election.
She said overall early voting is slightly down from the last presidential election, but that could easily change within the days leading up to Nov. 8. In 2012, 200 voters cast ballots at the BOE during the weekend before Election Day.
“Every election is its own entity,” Lemley said.
Statewide, as of Oct. 28, 1,594,220 voters have requested absentee ballots, and 1,054,912 have been cast. The absentee ballots include 22,139 requested from overseas, of which 9,288 have been cast. Mail requests have totaled 1,305,325, of which 776,017 have been cast, and 288,895 Ohioans have voted early in person.
Matthew McClellan, director of communications for Secretary of State Jon Husted, said he’s not aware of any major problems in the early voting process.
“When you’re dealing with this many voters you’re going to find minor problems here and there,” he said. “(But) things overall have been running pretty well in terms of how it operates.”
He also noted a dip in early voting from four years ago.
A record 1.87 million absentee votes were cast in 2012.
McClellan reminded voters they have until Saturday at noon to request an absentee ballot, the return of which must be postmarked by Nov. 7. He encouraged voters to return absentee ballots in person to their local Board of Elections by 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.